Saturday, 30 July 2016

Kucova surprise Montreal semi finalist

It's semi final time in Canada, and sadly no Canadians will feature.  The top female maple leaf hope was Eugenie Bouchard - after fine victories over Safarova and Cibulkova in Montreal, she lost to Slovakian Kristina Kucova, who despite winning the US Open Junior Grand Slam title in 2007, has never been ranked in the top 100. 

Kucova didn't stop there, impressing all with her quarter final success over last start winner Johanna Konta, in the process denying the Brit's attempt to enter the world's top ten.  Instead of Dominika Cibulkova flying the Slovak flag, it will be Kristina doing battle against 10th seed Madison Keys in one of the semi finals.

Keys has had a tough run, requiring three sets each to overcome Venus Williams and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in respective third round and quarter final clashes.  Pavlyuchenkova had previously dispensed with fourth seed Aga Radwanska.  I expect the power game of the American to be enough to guide her through to the final, with Kucova finally entering the top 100 irrespective.

The second of the semi finals of the Rogers Cup - yes the ATP and WTA event organisers in Canada must have accepted Mr Federer's donation of his name, just as the women's team event paid homage to the great man when calling itself the Fed Cup - will include Angie Kerber and Simona Halep, who were seeded to meet in the final four following the withdrawal of Muguruza. 

Kerber was facing defeat in the third round with Elina Svitolina serving for the match at 6-1 5-4, before pulling off the comeback of the tournament to survive and remaining favourite to win the title.  Halep also was threatened, her problems arriving in the quarter final against Kuznetsova, losing the opening set 6-3.  However, it proved only a slight diversion as the next two sets were wrapped up for Romania in rapid fashion.

In Toronto, the Canadian expected to reach the semis, fourth seed Milos Raonic, fell to the highly watchable but for much of his career just as unpredictable Gael Monfils.  Their quarter final was the highlight of the tournament leading into the battle of the final four.  Raonic played great tennis - better than at least two of the other winning quarter finalists - but Monfils was at the peak of his powers.  The locals were treated to a top spectacle, with only the result contributing anything negative.

Numbers 1, 2 and 3 seeds fill the other semi final spots.  Second seed Stan Wawrinka has displayed some of his best in each of his matches, not dropping a set while eliminating dangerous opponents including Sock and Anderson.  Three of the sets have gone to tie breaks and Stan has shown composure through these.  
He will need to remain composed against Kei Nishikori in the semi final because the third seed will keep the ball in play for an annoyingly long time.  Although his form has been scratchy, Nishikori has done all that is necessary and he is capable of lifting for the big occasion.  Not quite enough for this occasion though in my opinion.

Another who has yet to produce his best is the top seed Novak Djokovic, and that is scary for Gael Monfils.  The world number one, on the rebound from his Wimbledon disappointment, has used two opponents as hitting practice before rolling out a pile of unforced errors against Tomas Berdych - he can afford to do it when playing Berdych because somehow the win always come, whatever either does.

The semi final should be exciting to watch - Monfils will play glorious unconventional shots and hopefully challenge Djokovic to defend from unusual positions.  This may force the number one out of his comfort zone and produce some shot making that is rarely asked of him but is breathtaking in its skill and artistry.  
A win for Monfils is a big ask but a close match packed full of highlights is warranted for a crowd unhappy that a Canadian is not playing.

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