Gregory Strong –
Youth will be served at the upcoming National Bank Open after several late withdrawals affected the draw at the ATP Tour’s Masters 1000.
The so-called Big Three consisting of Roger Federer (knee), Novak Djokovic (unvaccinated), Rafael Nadal (abs) will not participate this year.
Instead, the event’s headlines will include 20 people like Russia’s top-rated Daniil Medvedev, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Italy’s Jannik Sinner and Montreal’s favorite Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“What’s special this year is the caliber and level of young players coming up,” said tournament director Eugene Lapierre after the draw was closed on Friday afternoon. “We’ve been talking about changing guards for several years now. I think we’re at it.”
Federer is still out of action after knee surgery. Nadal withdrew from the tournament on Friday, a day after Djokovic’s withdrawal was confirmed.
Djokovic was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and was not allowed to enter Canada. Nadal, meanwhile, is still recovering from a muscle tear that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon last month.
“I’ve been practicing for a while without serving and started with serves four days ago. Everything went well. However yesterday, after normal training, I felt a bit angry. belly and it’s still there today,” Nadal said in a statement. “After talking to my doctor, we want to take things cautiously and give them a few more days before competing.”
Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles in his career, one more than Djokovic. The Spaniard is seeded second in Montreal behind Medvedev, who will compete under the neutral flag.
Spain’s teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz placed second in a 56-player singles draw, which included notable entries like Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz and Norway’s Casper Ruud.
“They’re kids and they’re going to make tennis stories for the next 10 years easier,” Lapierre said. “So that’s what we’re going to see this year.”
Tsitsipas, who attended the draw at a downtown restaurant with Alcaraz, said the youth movement to join the tour was vibrant and motivated him to work harder.
“It helps me a lot in terms of my mood in terms of how I approach my workouts and how I approach my preparation towards better goals,” he says. “I’m a very competitive athlete. I want to prove to others that I’m better than them.”
Ninth-ranked Auger-Aliassime will have his first game of goodbye while fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov has a tough opener against Alex de Minaur. At 21st, the Australian is one place ahead of Shapovalov, who is from Richmond Hill, Ont.
Nadal’s withdrawal gave American Mackenzie McDonald a spot in the main draw.
“We are obviously disappointed that Rafael won’t be with us this year,” Lapierre said. “Our five-time champion and final men’s champion in Montreal (2019), fans are clearly eager to see him play again at the IGA Stadium.”
France’s Benjamin Bonzi and Australia’s Nick Kyrgios move to the main draw following Djokovic’s withdrawal from Serbia and Germany’s Oscar Otte.
Kyrgios, who lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, could face Medvedev in the second round. Medvedev said goodbye to the first round as the top seed.
Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, BC, will open with Tommy Paul of America and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Both Canadians were awarded wild card entries alongside Britain’s Andy Murray and Belgium’s David Goffin.
The National Bank Open is back to full capacity this year for the first time since 2019. The field includes 41 of the top 44 players in the men’s standings.
The qualifying match is set for the weekend and the main draw begins on Monday. The $6.57 million tournament rotates between Montreal and Toronto each year.
This Canadian Press report was first published on August 5, 2022.