Masters draws top 20 players
The lineup for the 2004 Tennis Masters Canada is immaculate -- all the top-20 players in the world are in the field.
They will be coming in from around the world and what they have done in previous weeks could affect their performances on the hard courts at the new Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto.
Main-draw action is set to begin at 11 o'clock this morning.
There was a conversation between a tournament worker and a reporter as they followed (via a live scoreboard on the Internet) Andy Roddick's second-set tiebreaker with Ivan Ljubicic in the semi-finals of the Indianapolis ATP event on Saturday.
When Roddick saved three match points on his way to winning 1-6, 7-6 (12-10), 6-3 over the Croatian, the spontaneous, simultaneous reaction was, "Oh, no."
The disappointment had nothing to do with cheering for Ljubicic. It was simply a shared feeling that it would be better if Roddick came to Toronto with an additional day off. As it was, after cruising to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nicolas Kiefer yesterday, second-seeded Roddick will start out tomorrow against qualifier Julien Benneteau.
Kiefer, the runner-up for the second week in a row, will face fresh and rested Marat Safin tomorrow. Safin, the 2000 Tennis Masters Canada champion, has not played since exiting Wimbledon in the first round.
Top seed Roger Federer also will begin play tomorrow, taking on talented Hicham Arazi. Federer leads the Moroccan 3-1 in their matches, but lost their last one: 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the opening round of the 2002 French Open.
After winning Wimbledon on grass, Federer immediately played the Swiss Open on clay, winning a title at home for the first time. The question now is whether two weeks off is enough time to recover and recharge, especially with another ATP Masters Series event in Cincinnati next week, followed by the Olympics in Athens and the U.S. Open -- all taking place within seven weeks.
The third seed of the Tennis Masters Canada tournament, Guillermo Coria, will be playing for the first time since Wimbledon, and fourth seed Carlos Moya arrived yesterday after being upset on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Umag, Croatia, clay-court event.
Because of the rain-out on Saturday of semi-finals at the ATP clay-court tournament in Kitzbuhel, Austria, four Tennis Masters Canada competitors -- French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, Nicolas Massu, Rainer Schuettler and Fernando Verdasco -- all had to play yesterday. Massu beat Gaudio 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in the final.
They all will be pressed hard in Toronto tomorrow after changing surfaces and travelling through six time zones.
Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., who lost in the final of the $50,000 (U.S.) Challenger event in Aptos, Calif., yesterday, has to make a hasty trip across the continent to get to Toronto in time to meet gritty American veteran Vince Spadea tomorrow.
In other first-round matches today, Daniel Nestor of Toronto will play qualifier Cyril Saulnier of France, and Simon Larose of Trois-Rivières, Que., will take on David Ferrer of Spain. Tomorrow, Frédéric Niemeyer of Deauville, Que., will meets another Spaniard, David Sanchez.
Two players who should be optimally prepared for their "popcorn" (get some, sit back and enjoy) match tonight are Andre Agassi and Tommy Haas.
They will take to the court after the opening ceremony.
Haas beat Agassi 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (8-6), 6-3 in the quarter-finals in Los Angeles 10 days ago, but Agassi leads their head-to-head 4-3.
Agassi has played only six matches dating back to the Nasdaq-100 Open in March in Miami, but reported after his three matches in Los Angeles that there were no ill effects on his ailing hip.
During a media conference at the Rexall Centre on Saturday, Agassi's exasperation with the hip problem was evident when he said of returning to play next year in Montreal: "My patience has grown real thin with expectations lately. It's been very disappointing for me.
"[But] my hope and my game plan is to play."
This is Agassi's 13th appearance, winning the title in 1992, 1994 and 1995. John McEnroe played a record 16 times.
Five to watch
Guillermo Coria: But for nerves-induced cramps in the third set of the French Open final, the Argentine might have won easily and now be celebrated as a clay-court titan. Gifted on any surface, he could shine on the Rexall Centre's hard courts.
Fernando Gonzalez: The Chilean is as gentle and kindly off the court as his ball-striking is huge and explosive on it. A good guy to root for.
Tim Henman: With Roger Federer's abandoning his commitment to serving-and-volleying at Wimbledon this year, Henman becomes even more of a vanishing breed. A fine shotmaker, he should be savoured like strawberries in Devonshire cream.
Xavier Malisse: A human highlight reel when it comes to brilliant tennis, the Belgian is guaranteed to hit a few shots that leave spectators gasping in disbelief.
Marat Safin: The unpredictable Russian is long on talent but short on equanimity. He's worth watching just because it's a mystery whether it will be good Marat or bad Marat who shows up.