Paring Down The Field
MONTREAL--It started with 56 players, then was whittled down to 32.
Now 16 players from 13 nations - Canada, Russia and France each have two players - are left at the 2013 men's Rogers Cup.
Juan Martin del Potro, a Wimbledon semifinalist this year and a winner at the previous ATP stop in Washington last weekend, was 16th player to punch his ticket to the third round, waiting until almost midnight after the rain had stopped and Uniprix Stadium was 3/4 empty to get it done amidst some strange circumstances.
Hobbled by what appeared to be a sore back - he required a lengthy massage on court after losing the second set to Croatian Ivan Dodig - del Potro played the third set serving relative puffballs, seemingly trying just to finish the match.
Dodig jumped ahead by two breaks of serve, normally an insurmountable margin in men's tennis. But he couldn't finish, and ultimately was a study in frustration and self-recrimination as he lost the final set 7-5 to allow del Potro to escape.
What kind of shape the 6-foot-6 Argentine will be in today amidst uncertain weather conditions will be fascinating. His opponent is Canada's No. 1 player, Milos Raonic, who seemed to move into form on Wednesday with an easy straight sets win over Mikhail Youzhny of Russia.
The 24-year-old del Potro and the 22-year-old Raonic are two of the biggest hitters on tour, but have never played. Raonic is trying to be a Rogers Cup quarterfinalist for the second straight year while digging himself out of a mid-season funk.
The other Canadian, Vasek Pospisil, blew out the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek on Wednesday and faces another Czech today, Tomas Berdych.
Berdych is ranked No. 6 in the world and has never faced Pospisil.
The two Canadians are clearly with the big boys now, and the other six third round matches include the brightest stars of the men's game, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
Nadal probably has the toughest assignment, facing 6-foot-8 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, who barely outlasted Canada's Frank Dancevic on Wednesday. Of the rest, the confrontation between Japan's Kei Nishikori and Richard Gasquet of Frances looms as the most competitive.