Rain is a welcome occasional visitor during the summer. It usually helps the plants and gardens plus it tends to alleviate the humidity we get. This is true except when you are hosting a world class tennis tournament. On the first day of the 2015 Rogers Cup both Montreal (men) and Toronto (women) had to deal with rain wreaking havoc with the schedule. And it seems like Tuesday might be a complete write off. A scheduler’s nightmare, but what are you going to do.
Despite the weather a couple of matches did happen. It was the first night of the tournament and there was a good crowd at most courts. First match I watched saw Aussie Bernard Tomic face off against Joao Sousa. Tomic is 22-years-old and ranked 26th in the world. He has been on the tour for 4 years and over that period the 6’5” player has been roundly criticized for being too passive on the court. Those around tennis want him to use his size and power to dominate yet that does not seem to be the type of player he is. Tennis almost seems to be too easy for him with his smooth way of playing; it looks like he is not putting any effort into it. The late summer season should be his best time as the hard courts and their speed suit his play.
His opponent Sousa is 26-years-old and Portuguese, though he trains in Spain. Despite the fact that he is older this was only Sousa’s second appearance at the Rogers Cup.
In the first game Tomic was in control of the tempo almost from the beginning. It took him until the fourth game to break Sousa. That small advantage was all Tomic needed as he seemed content to just trade service games with Sousa until it ended with a 6-3 victory for the Australian player.
The second set went pretty much the same as the first. Tomic broke Sousa’s serve twice to win 6-3. His opponent in the second round would be a lot tougher in world number 6 Marin Cilic. Tomic controlled the entire match only allowing his opponent, who even had a fight at one point with Hawkeye – the computerized machine consulted on contested line calls, one sniff at a break and not even succumbing on that occasion.
The first game on centre court in the evening session was Frenchman Gael Monfils against Italian Fabio Fognini. The start of the match was delayed a little due to a light sprinkling just before 6:30 p.m., but it didn’t cause too much trouble.
Monfils is ranked 15th in the tournament, but an injury at Wimbledon had delayed his participating in hard court tournaments so far. This was expected to a fairly tight contest as the two players have had 6 previous matches with each winning 3. Fognini, ranked number 27 in the world, has won the only match on hard court (Indian Wells). The Italian was coming into this tournament on a good run as he had just reached the finals on clay at Hamburg the past week. Unfortunately a wonky wrist and the inability to adapt from clay to hard court led to Fognini’s downfall.
Each player held their serve at the beginning of the first set. It wasn’t sparkling tennis, however, as each was trying to find their rhythm. During the third game the 28-years-old Monfils sensed a weakness. The game went on for quite a while and then the Frenchman took advantage of a couple of unforced errors from the forehand side by Fognini to break him and go up 2-1. As is often the case after one player breaks the other a letdown happens and Fognini found himself with three break points on the Monfils serve. Two straight aces brought that down to a more reasonable one, which another big first serve took care of.
Despite the fact that he was only hitting his first serve at a 48% success rate, Monfils was able to come up with big ones when needed. The two traded holds until the ninth game of the set when Monfils once again broke Fognini to win the first 6-3 in 36 minutes. With 20 unforced errors in the first set Fognini could not have expected different. A loss in the first set this year is not a good omen for Fognini as he has only gone on to win 3 matches in 18 in which this has happened.
After the 1st set Fognini called for the trainer, who began working on the Italian’s right wrist. During the time out Monfils, always the entertainer on the court, joined in with the crowd when they began the wave.
Fognini came out to play the second set with his wrist taped. Who knows if it was the taping or the problem with his wrist, but he had a couple of double faults in his first service game of the second set and ended up being broken by Monfils to fall behind 0-2. Fognini was making a lot of errors trying to keep up with the Monfils pace.
From this point on the Italian’s body language was poor and he even threw his racquet at one point. He looked totally discouraged and was no longer putting up much of a fight. You knew it was just a matter of Monfils not completely imploding for him to win. The second game ended 6-1 in Monfils’ favour for a 6-3, 6-1 Monfils win.
Throughout the two games Fognini was overplaying the forehand while Monfils’ court coverage was excellent. Also Monfils took advantage of his break point opportunities while Fognini could not. Monfils converted 4 of 5 break chances whereas Fognini could not cash in on any of the 6 he had.
Before the game Monfils, the man in all honesty who was expected to win, stated that he wanted to get off to a good start in the tournament. While it wasn’t perfect Monfils did not make big mistakes and played a fairly steady game. Wisely he kept his foot on Fognini’s neck when the Italian started to be bothered by his wrist not allowing him a sniff of getting back in the game. Getting off the court after two sets (match lasted just over 1 hour) in the first couple of rounds in a tournament is important as you know that you will be battling later on. Next up for Monfils is Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who defeated Canadian Philip Bester 6-2, 6-3.
The final game of the evening on centre court was another Frenchman and the defending champion of the tournament, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against the young Serb, Borna Coric. Coric is only 18-years-old and is ranked 36th in the world. He began his professional career in 2013 and this was his first time at the Rogers Cup. Tsonga has the advantage experience-wise as he began on the tour in 2004 and is 30-years-old. Ranked 10th in the tournament, Tsonga also has more power than Coric. The Serb is a battler, so it was setting up to be an interesting first round match.
Unfortunately Mother Nature did not seem to care much that a tournament was going on in the outdoors and rain started pouring down with Tsonga up 2-1 on serve. At around 10 p.m. the players came back on the court only to decide it was too slick and late to continue, so the game would be delayed until Tuesday…if the rain decided to stop.