With this week's Canadian Masters in Toronto and the Cincinnati Masters later, Novak Djokovic has a chance to consolidate his position atop tennis ahead of the year's final grand slam.
Novak Djokovic hopes to use Canada as catapult to US Open
Newlywed Novak Djokovic will try to give himself more reason to celebrate this week as he returns to the hardcourts of North America at the Canada Masters with the US Open on the horizon.
The No 1-ranked Serb, who has lifted the trophy three times in the ATP Masters tournament that alternates between Toronto and Montreal, is seeking another strong run to further separate himself atop the rankings from injured world No 2 Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard, who won the 2013 Canadian crown as well as the Cincinnati Masters, has withdrawn from both events this year to nurse a right wrist injury – raising fears he could also miss the final Grand Slam of the season at Flushing Meadows, where he is also the defending champion.
His absence leaves Djokovic as the favourite in Toronto, and despite a “terrible draw” that could have him meeting eighth-seeded Andy Murray in the quarter-finals the 27-year-old was in high spirits after winning Wimbledon and getting married, with his first child to be born soon.
“It’s been probably the best month I’ve had in my life with the Wimbledon title, a wedding and of course a baby coming up,” Djokovic said.
“I’m going back to the business, back to my office, but of course filled with positive energy, with joy, all the beautiful emotions that a person can experience right now.
“Hopefully I can use that to perform well on the tennis court.”
Roger Federer, who won Canada in 2004 and 2006, is seeded second in his quest for a third title of 2014.
He’ll be returning to action for the first time since falling to Djokovic in a five-set final at Wimbledon.
The father of four, who turns 33 next Friday, has spent a relaxed few weeks in the Alps with his family and is gearing up for a serious run at his first US Open trophy since 2008.
Federer is followed in the seedings by compatriot Stan Wawrinka, the Australian Open and Monte Carlo champion.
Acknowledging that his breakthrough season has taken something of a toll, Wawrinka skipped a date last month as headliner on his home claycourts at Gstaad, saying he needed both a mental and physical break.
“I need to be ready for the last few months of the season,” he said. “It’s a long series and it will be tough for sure,” he said of the hardcourt buildup to Flushing Meadows.
“It will be another big challenge,” added Wawrinka, whose best Canadian showing was a quarter-final appearance three years ago. “I’m trying to be fit and to do everything possible not to be injured.”
The top eight seeds all have first-round byes, with Djokovic slated to open his campaign against either Czech Radek Stepanek or oft-injured Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Federer will open against either Canadian wild card Peter Polansky or Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz.
Czech Tomas Berdych, bounced as top seed in Washington this week by Canadian Vasek Pospisil, is seeded fourth, ahead of Spain’s David Ferrer.
Canadian Milos Raonic is seeded sixth, and his home fans will be expecting great things after his runner-up finish to Nadal last year and his first Grand Slam semi-final appearance at Wimbledon. Raonic will also appear against Pospisil in Sunday’s Washington finale.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov will test his fitness after withdrawing because of illness from Washington while eighth-seeded Murray will venture onto court for the first time since his Wimbledon quarter-final humiliation against Dimitrov.
Australian Nick Kyrgios, who stunned Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon, plays on a wild card.
The 19-year-old faces Santiago Giraldo in the first round with the winner to play Murray.
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