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Road to the NBO...

Road to the NBO Toronto by 407 ETR: Onwards Towards Wimbledon

by Mike McIntyre

June 20, 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.

DAYS UNTIL THE NATIONAL BANK OPEN: 44

On-Court Action

The grass court season is now fully upon us and last week we witnessed titles from the likes of Frances Tiafoe and Tallon Griekspoor.

The win in Stuttgart at the Boss Open from Tiafoe was a landmark achievement in the 25-year-old American’s career as it propels him into the Top 10 for the first time. The United States has not had two male players in that elite group since 2012 and now Tiafoe’s arrival alongside Taylor Fritz gives their country a solid one-two punch.

Tiafoe is an electric player who knows how to work a crowd. Fans of his coming to the National Bank Open this August will be seeing a player who has very much evolved from his last appearance in Toronto. His career-best result was the round of 16 in 2021, where he had to play qualifying before finding his way into the main draw as a lucky loser. There’s nothing lucky about Tiafoe’s game at the moment and he will be a contender for the title at every event he enters this summer.

At the other grass court event last week in s’-Hertogenbosch, it was sixth-seeded Tallon Griekspoor who emerged with the title, much to the delight of the Dutch fans. It is the second consecutive year that a local hope has won the championship, as last year it was Tim van Rijthoven who lifted the trophy. The 26-year-old Griekspoor now moves up nine spots in the ATP rankings to a career high of No. 29 thanks to the second title of both this season and in his career.

Read also: Grass Court Season Kicks Off

Top seed Daniil Medvedev, who went out in the first-round last month at Roland-Garros, also fell in his opening match on grass to Adrian Mannarino in s’-Hertogenbosch. Medvedev has a career winning percentage of 67 per cent on grass including a finalist appearance last year in Halle. He has tasted success on grass with one title as a professional on the surface in 2021 in Mallorca and his best-ever showing at Wimbledon was when he made the round of 16 in 2021 as well.

Stories to Watch

Does Andy Murray ever cease to amaze us?

Earlier this month, the 36-year-old confidently declared himself to be a Top Ten threat on grass and he’s just won back-to-back grass court Challenger titles to remind us all of his comfort level on the surface. In the process the Scot has returned to the top 40 on the ATP Tour for the first time since 2018.

Read also: The Weight of a Nation for the Brits

Earlier this month, when asked about being a contender on grass, Murray responded, “Yes, I think so. It is hard to put numbers on it, but yes, I would fancy myself against a lot of them (the Top 10).”

Could Murray offer the home crowd one last hurrah at Wimbledon this summer? Physically, it seems like a big ask for him to accomplish over best-of-five sets. However, with the right draw he could make it a few rounds to be sure. Being seeded at Wimbledon, now a possibility, would also help Murray significantly. A more realistic expectation is a deeper run, perhaps even a title in one of the ATP 250 warm-up tournaments over the next couple of weeks.

Elsewhere, Nick Kyrios made his return on the lawns of Stuttgart, but lost in the first round to Wu Yibing. It was the boisterous Aussie’s first match since Tokyo in October of last fall as he has been kept on the sidelines throughout 2023 with a knee injury.

Read also: Remembering Novak Djokovic’s 2011 Wimbledon-Canada-US Open Sweep

Kyrgios has a big result to back up from Wimbledon last year where he stormed to the first Grand Slam final of his career before losing to Novak Djokovic. It remains to be seen if his body can rise to the occasion in time for him to participate, let alone play, at the level required to make it to the second week of a major.

A final story to watch as Wimbledon approaches is how our Canadian men are feeling after transitioning from clay to grass.

Denis Shapovalov fell in the opening round in Stuttgart to begin his grass court season and is playing in Halle this week. Felix Auger Aliassime is unfortunately still dealing with shoulder issues that plagued him during the clay court swing.

Meanwhile, Milos Raonic made a triumphant return to action last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch where after a nearly two-year absence from competition, he was victorious in his opening-round match against Miomir Kecmanovic. Despite falling to Jordan Thompson in the round of 16, this was a very positive step forward for the hard-serving Canuck.

Off-Court Buzz

Part two of the Netflix documentary series Break Point premieres June 21 and if the first five-episode story arc was any indication, tennis fans should be in for a treat as this behind-the-scenes look at professional tennis concludes its first season.

Among the men’s players featured in the opening volley of episodes were Nick Kyrgios, Matteo Berrettini, Taylor Fritz, Casper Ruud and Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime. The series resumes around last year’s Wimbledon which is timed perfectly with where the tour happens to be at the moment.

Read also: A New Battle for WTA Supremacy?

Regardless of how these finals few episodes are reviewed, the series has already committed to a second season, which hopefully continues to shed light on more of the personalities of the sport while bringing new tennis fans to the table moving forward. If we’re lucky there will be a continued Canadian presence as well!

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!