Sean Grassie, Tennis Manitoba’s tournament director and communications director, attended the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Along with watching the world’s best on the ATP tour, Sean sat in on many of the player press conferences.
The likes of Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori wowed fans in Toronto with their tennis skills and were equally adept at returning questions from inquisitive reporters in the press room. Mixed in with post-match analysis was some humour, some thoughts on keeping loses in perspective and some tips for playing big points well.
In a lighter moment, Daniel Nestor joked that he and partner Vasek Pospisil were a “good backup” for Canadian tennis fans after the exit of Milos Raonic from men’s singles. Nestor/Pospisil beat the Czech Republic team of Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-6 to set up a semifinal meeting on Centre Court against Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares.
“Milos has been stealing our thunder the last couple of nights,” said Nestor. “Not enough people on Grandstand. It will be nice to have a bigger crowd and better support.”
Raonic was philosophical in defeat after his 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal loss to Frenchman Gael Monfils.
“In tennis, unless you’re the guy winning the tournaments most of the weeks, which there are very few guys doing that, you’re losing quite a bit,” Raonic said. “So it’s very important to make the most of those, try to learn, try to be better from those situations. That’s my next objective.”
The tournament victor was world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who captured his record 30th ATP Masters 1000 title with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori. A pivotal moment for the Serb at the Rogers Cup came in his quarterfinal match against Berdych: trailing 6-3 in the first set tiebreak with Berdych serving, Djokovic roared back to take the tiebreak 8-6 and went on to win in straight sets. When asked how he was able to overcome that deficit against Berdych, Djokovic shared his approach to playing the big points.
“Even though it sounds like a cliché,” said Djokovic, “but really being in the moment, trying to direct your attention only to what you can influence…It’s important to always stay committed and trust that you can play one ball more than your opponent.”
Canadian Denis Shapovalov created a buzz on opening night with his 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 11 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia. The 17-year-old Shapovalov, who won the Wimbledon junior boys’ singles title earlier this summer, lost in the second round 6-4, 6-3 to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
“He’s much further along than I was at his age,” Raonic said of Shapovalov.
Canadian Davis Cup teammates Nestor and Pospisil have paired up in men’s doubles at the Olympic Games. Reaching the Rogers Cup semifinals as a team was good preparation for Rio.
“The fact that we have back-on-back wins already is really good going into Rio,” Pospisil said after their quarterfinal win. “And then the little things, those are just adjustments that we make in a few days because we have played together so many times, like who takes the ball in the middle, little habits that we develop playing with other partners that we need to kind of touch up on when we play together.”
The men’s doubles title in Toronto was won by Ivan Dodig/Marcelo Melo, who beat Murray/Soares 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
At the women’s Rogers Cup in Montreal, Simona Halep of Romania reached both finals: she beat Madison Keys 7-6, 6-3 to win the singles title and lost the women’s doubles final with partner Monica Niculescu 6-3, 7-6 to Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina.