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Road to the NBO...

Road to the NBO Toronto by 407 ETR: Final Hard-Court Preparation

by Mike McIntyre

August 1, 2023

Presented by

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.


On Court Action

August is here and that means we are only days away from the start of the National Bank Open! The main draw takes place at 4 pm Friday Aug. 4 and then qualifying action is set to begin Saturday the 5th at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto. This is therefore the last “Road to the NBO” article, so let’s get right to the On-Court Action first!

Last week, the Atlanta Open kicked off the summer hard court swing. American Taylor Fritz got back to his winning ways by capturing the sixth ATP title of his career with a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4 win over Aleksandar Vukic.

Fritz made the quarter-finals of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami in his last appearances on hard courts and will be looking to go further as he takes to his game to Toronto followed by Cincinnati this month.

This week, we move to Washington, D.C. for the Mubadala Citi Open, an ATP 500 event that takes place the week before the NBO. Fun fact, this was the first tournament I ever covered as a member of the media back in 2008 and it holds a special place in my heart as I think back to my rookie reporter days! The tournament has grown significantly since then and is also now a dual ATP/WTA event.

Read also: Meet the Canadian Men Competing in Toronto

In terms of Canadian content in D.C., Felix Auger-Aliassime is the lone male entry in the main draw and finds himself as the third seed. Felix’s opening-round match will be his first hard-court appearance since the Miami Open four months ago. For fans in attendance at the National Bank Open, Felix will be celebrating his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, Aug. 8, so be sure to wish him a good one if you’re lucky enough to see him either in practice or if he ends up playing a match that night!

Stories to Watch

Since qualifying action at the NBO is first up this coming weekend, let’s take a look at which players are going to be trying to advance to the main draw this year. The 407 ETR Family Weekend is absolutely free and a great opportunity for both adults and kids to come see their favourite tennis players in action.

Most notable is three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. The 38-year-old has been playing great lately with a doubles title at the Swiss Open followed by a finalist appearance in singles action at the Croatia Open just last week. Wawrinka is now back inside the Top 50 of the ATP rankings for the first time since 2021.

Read also: Meet the Dark Horses in the Toronto Draw

He’s been a regular here in Canada over the years as well, making his initial appearance back in 2005 in Montreal where he fell to former Canadian Greg Rusedski in his first match.

Another veteran who will be in qualies is 33-year-old Kei Nishikori. Nishikori recently returned to tennis after a 20-month absence. He made his first ATP quarter-final in over two years last week in Atlanta and has tasted success in Toronto before when he made the finals of the NBO back in 2016 where he fell to Novak Djokovic.

Other names to watch in qualifying action include Botic van de Zandschulp, JJ Wolf and Emil Ruusuvuori who are all ranked inside the top 50. Some Canadian men will surely be added to the mix as well once the remaining qualifying wildcards are announced this week.

Aside from watching the qualifying stories unfold, all the top players in the world will be in action on the practice courts this weekend as they prepare for main draw matches to begin Monday Aug. 7.

Off Court Buzz

One of my favourite off-court moments at the National Bank Open is always the draw ceremony. It’s the culmination of all that anticipation of finding out where your favourite players will land, which popcorn matches will happen in the opening round, and the start of endless debating of who has the best chance of making it to the finals.

Read also: Meet the ATP Top 10 ahead of the 2023 National Bank Open

There’s usually a big-name player on hand to assist with the proceedings as well, as seen below when Rafael Nadal appeared on top of the CN Tower to help draw the names in 2018.

Photo : Mike McIntyre
Photo : Mike McIntyre

One moment that Canadian tennis fans are buzzing about is certainly the long-awaited return of Milos Raonic. The man from Thornhill has not played in his hometown tournament since 2019 and, in a recent chat with Ben Lewis and I on Match Point Canada, he revealed why the NBO is so important to him.

“The most exciting thing for me is coming back to Toronto. It’s been five years since I’ve played. It’s kind of crazy because it’s about ten minutes away from where I grew up in Thornhill. Personally, for me, playing in front of Canadian fans will be great but on a deeper personal level, my parents haven’t been able to come to a match of mine since I believe 2019 at some point…That one will probably be the most meaningful to me.”

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!