Welcome to the Road to the National Bank Open presented by 407 ETR. Every week, we will keep you updated on all the action on the ATP Tour as we build towards the National Bank Open in Toronto, which takes place from Aug. 5 to 13.
DAYS UNTIL THE NATIONAL BANK OPEN: 33
On Court Action
In the final foray of grass court tournaments prior to Wimbledon, Chris Eubanks triumphed for his first ATP title in Mallorca, while Francisco Cerundolo grabbed the trophy in Eastbourne. While neither player is considered a contender at the All-England Club, the ranking points and prize money from their respective tournament victories certainly go a long way in their continued development this year on the ATP Tour.
Ben Lewis and I had Eubanks as our guest on Match Point Canada earlier this year and the 27-year-old is in the midst of having a breakout season between the grass court title and reaching the first Masters 1000 quarter-final of his career in Miami back in March. Eubanks defeated solid grass court player Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 6-4 in the finals of Mallorca.
Cerundolo, meanwhile, got past Tommy Paul 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to capture the second ATP title of his career. He maintains his career-best ranking of No. 19 heading into Wimbledon.
Quickly, let’s touch on the start of action at the All-England Club as well. The oldest tournament on the calendar brings with it tradition and prestige and this year perhaps the biggest tournament favourite of the season as well, with Novak Djokovic largely considered a near-lock to hoist his eighth title there.
After a rain delay and an early break against him, Djokovic looked ever so comfortable in his opening-round win against Pedro Cachin 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4). It was a 29th straight win on grass for the World No. 2 and he doesn’t appear ready to let that streak end anytime soon.
“It was a solid performance,” said Djokovic after the win. “I know I can always play better, but at the same time after a long clay court season, coming into Wimbledon without any preparation tournament, lead-up event, any official match on grass, it was kind of expected I still would probably not be at 100% level of my tennis. I've been in these situations before, so hopefully as the tournament progresses I'll raise my level as well.”
Early Canadian results on the men’s side saw the unfortunate loss of Felix Auger-Aliassime vs American Michael Mmoh by a score of 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-4. The 11th seed has struggled of late with injuries and so the result isn’t a total shock considering his ailments coupled with the strong play from Mmoh who made the third round of the Aussie Open earlier in the year where he defeated Alexander Zverev.
Stories to Watch
Is there a bigger story in the men’s draw at Wimbledon other than Novak Djokovic who continues to chase history. The Serbian is aiming to tie Roger Federer with an eighth title at the All-England Club. Currently, he’s tied at seven with the likes of Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.
Djokovic is also vying for his 24th overall Grand Slam title, which would give him two more than Rafael Nadal and four more than Federer. A victory would also keep his calendar year Slam dream alive, which he came ever so close to achieving back in 2021 before his loss to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open Finals.
Djokovic’s biggest obstacle to the title at the All-England Club is World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, who was 14 years old the last time Djokovic failed to win the title. Alcaraz is quickly finding his footing on grass as evidenced by his Queen’s Club title recently. A French Open semifinal rematch between the two would be a great storyline in the men’s game.
Off Court Buzz
Roger Federer made his return to Wimbledon this week where he was honoured in a special ceremony before the opening of play on Tuesday. One would have to think that the 20-time Slam Champion could still very much contend at the All-England Club if he was healthy, even at the age of 41. With the men’s draw seemingly so much tilted in Novak Djokovic’s favour, someone with Federer’s experience and talent on the grass could still be a major threat.
Canadian tennis fans of Federer would be wise to look into the Laver Cup in Vancouver in September where the Swiss legend is most likely to appear to promote his pseudo-exhibition creation, albeit in a non-playing capacity.
Team World so far has Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime (who notably shares a birthday with Fed), Taylor Fritz, Nick Kyrgios and Frances Tiafoe in the lineup. It’s a great opportunity for tennis enthusiasts on the West Coast to catch some top-level ATP action!
The ATP's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 5 to 13 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!