The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

5 times Novak Djokovic captured the hearts of Montrealers

May 22, 2019

The 142nd day of the Gregorian calendar is Unity Day in Yemen and the International Day for Biological Diversity. It also happens to mark the birthdays of composer Richard Wagner, supermodel Naomi Campbell and tennis’ very own Novak Djokovic.

Today, May 22, we couldn’t let the anniversary of the reigning World No.1’s birth go unnoticed. What better day to revisit some of the highlights of the Djoker’s very particular history at Rogers Cup? Here’s the definitive ranking.


After making his debut two years’ earlier in the qualifying event, a 20-year-old Novak Djokovic barged into the main draw. His first try turned out to be his first triumph with back-to-back wins over Roddick (quarters), Nadal (semis) and Federer (final)—the Nos. 3, 2 and 1, respectively—in the most brilliant run since Boris Becker in Stockholm in 1994. Keeping fans on the edge of their seats up until the very end, Djokovic wrenched the winner’s trophy out of the Maestro’s hands in a third-set tiebreaker and officially joined the big leagues.


Coming off a so-so season, the titleholder in Montréal was not yet the dominating force he would become a few years down the road. Tending to revert to playing the crowd rather than the ball, Nole took to the catwalk in the fashion show held at the players’ party. Banking on his courage (and taste for provocation), he strutted out in an elegant men’s bathrobe before letting it all hang out.


Djokovic descended on IGA Stadium as the top dog. Having lost only one match all season, he had achieved total global domination. He wrapped up a perfect week by hoisting the latest addition to his trophy case. He even managed to win over local fans, who customarily stood behind his Swiss and Spanish rivals. His first video spot with Jean-René Dufort, which marked the start of great love affair between the two, may have had something to do with it.


Despite reigning supreme in the rankings, Djoko ended up being overpowered by Rafael Nadal, who took the North American hardcourt season by storm and claimed the titles in Montréal, Cincinnati and New York. The rivals fought it out in a Dantean semi in which Rafa shot Nole straight through the heart. Some would argue that the highlight of the event was Djokovic’s improvised choreography with Smash, the Rogers Cup mascot. Once a Djoker, always a Djoker.


Novak Djokovic came roaring back to Montréal as the new Wimbledon champion and overlord of the ATP Tour. He fell to Andy Murray in the final but should consider himself lucky to have even gotten that far. Two days earlier, the erratic Ernests Gulbis came this close to forcing him into submission. Nole had to survive the rollercoaster ride and fight off two match points. He even got into a bit of a tussle with a woman in the stands. But maybe that was a good thing?