Preview: Three-Time Champ Murray to Face Fritz; Shapovalov Aims for Reset on Home Turf
As Day 1 action gets underway at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers, Andy Murray finds himself back on familiar ground, both in terms of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and the hard courts of the Great White North.
In June, the Scotsman returned to the Top 50 for the first time since 2018, the year he underwent the first of his two hip surgeries. The former No. 1 is looking to continue that resurgence with a deep run in Canada, where he has raised the ATP Masters 1000 trophy on no fewer than three occasions, most recently in 2015. There’s plenty of incentive with the US Open looming and a chance to be among the 32 seeds at the year-end Grand Slam.
“It’s still possible to do it. I would just need to have a good run in Canada or Cincinnati,” said Murray, whose summer has included a final in Stuttgart and a quarter-final showing in Newport. “It’s pretty straightforward, if I was to make a quarter-final or a semi-final there. I do feel like if I play very well that I could do that.”
The 35-year-old wild card will have his work cut out for him in the opening round on Monday in a first-time encounter with rising American Taylor Fritz. At No. 13 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the baseliner is riding high after defeating Rafael Nadal to capture his maiden Masters 1000 title earlier this year in Indian Wells, and breaking through to his first major quarter-final last month at Wimbledon.
Fritz recalls, as a kid, watching Murray play in Indian Wells, just a few hours’ drive from his Rancho Santa Fe birthplace. (“They had him on, hard to believe, one of the side courts,” he said.) He even chased Murray down for an autograph. But this will be Fritz’s first tour-level meeting with the three-time major titlist. The American has yet to advance beyond the first round in Canada.
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The Court Central lineup on Day 1 in Montreal will also feature Stan Wawrinka vs. Emil Ruusuvuori, Diego Schwartzman vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and an intriguing head-to-head between Canadian Denis Shapovalov vs. Aussie Alex de Minaur.
Shapovalov hopes playing in front of his home fans will prove the spark he needs after a rough stretch that has, since defeating Nadal to reach the quarter-finals in Rome, seen him drop eight of nine matches. The World No. 22 would do well to revisit his career breakthrough win, which came on home soil at this same event in 2017. That’s the year the left-hander, then just 18, stunned then-World No. 2 Nadal to become the youngest-ever Masters 1000 semi-finalist.
Shapovalov is 0-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against De Minaur, who one week ago lifted the ATP 250 title in Atlanta for the second time.
Elsewhere, Francisco Cerundolo and Karen Khachanov will kick off the opening-round action on Court Rogers. Cerundolo is in the midst of a breakout campaign that has seen the 23-year-old Argentine crack the Top 100 and overcome countryman Sebastian Baez to capture his first ATP Tour crown in Bastad.
American Jenson Brooksby and Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik will meet for the first time in Montreal. Both players find themselves in top form, Brooksby having reached the trophy tilt in Atlanta (l. to De Minaur, 6-3, 6-3), and Bublik having pushed eventual titlist Maxime Cressy to the limit on grass in the Newport final, falling 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
No. 14 seed Roberto Bautista Agut will take on former UCLA standout Marcos Giron of the United States, while Italy’s Fabio Fognini is set to face Denmark’s Holder Rune, who since reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals has suffered opening-round defeats in six of his past seven events.