By Max Gao
After 728 days, professional tennis has finally returned to the Sobeys Stadium. In a star-studded field bustling with young talent, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas — who reached their first Masters 1000 final at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in 2019 and 2018, respectively — will both be looking to dethrone Spanish legend and two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal.
The Top Half
World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev will topline this year’s event and begin his campaign for his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title against Daniel Evans or Alexander Bublik. The Russian, whose accolades in 2021 include two titles and a run to the Australian Open final, has enjoyed a steady rise on the North American hardcourts in the three years since his last visit to Toronto, where he qualified and lost in the third round to Alexander Zverev.
If Medvedev can weather the storm in his opening match, he could be on a collision course in the third round with No. 16 seed Jannik Sinner, a young Italian standout who is coming off a strong week at the Citi Open in Washington. Closing out the top quarter of the draw are No. 12 seed Alex de Minaur and No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz, who recently upset Roger Federer and reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon.
In the second quarter of the draw, No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev and No. 5 seed and hometown hero Denis Shapovalov are projected to clash in the last eight, but they will have their work cut out for them in the opening rounds. Rublev could face crafty Italian Fabio Fognini in his first match before meeting No. 13 seed Cristian Garin or big-serving American John Isner in the last 16. Shapovalov, on the other hand, could face American rising star Sebastian Korda in his first match and could collide with former World No. 6 Gael Monfils in the last 16.
The Bottom Half
20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will kick off his quest for a sixth National Bank Open title against a number of familiar foes. The current World No. 3 could face Lloyd Harris, who just stunned him last week in Washington, in his first match and could collide with No. 14 seed Grigor Dimitrov, against whom he has only lost once in 15 previous meetings, in the third round. Rounding out his quarter of the draw are No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman, a semifinalist at last year’s French Open, and No. 10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, a former Wimbledon semifinalist.
Three years ago, Stefanos Tsitsipas made an inspired run to the final in Toronto, defeating the likes of Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic before falling to Nadal in straight sets. The Greek superstar, who returns to the Ontarian capital as the current World No. 4 and reigning French Open finalist, has been placed in a quarter with a whole host of breakout stars. Tsitsipas is joined by No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev, a recent Australian Open semifinalist and Olympic bronze medallist in mixed doubles; No. 6 seed Caspar Ruud, a tour-leading, four-time titleist in 2021; and No. 9 seed and Canadian hopeful Félix Auger-Aliassime, who just made his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon.
First-Round Matches to Watch
American wild card Jenson Brooksby, who has made quite the splash this summer with deep runs at ATP events in Newport and Washington, will face Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili and could face de Minaur in the second round. U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori, who recently made a run to the quarter-finals of his home Olympic Games, will face a stern test in the big-serving Miomir Kecmanovic.
In his first match since winning a silver medal in Tokyo, Russia’s Karen Khachanov will face British left-hander Cameron Norrie, who is enjoying a career-best season on the ATP Tour. Canadian veteran Vasek Pospisil, who made the semi-finals of this tournament in 2013, will face a qualifier in his first match, while Nick Kyrgios will square off against Reilly Opelka in a match that will largely be decided by big serves and first-strike tennis.