Tricky draw for Rafael Nadal in Toronto

Singles draw has been made for the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto, the fifth Masters tournament of the year (August 9-15).

Rafael Nadal, the two-time defending champion whose foot injury appeared to be bothering him this week at a tournament in Washington, is second seed in Canada and will open his campaign against the winner of the match between Lloyd Harris and a qualifier.

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Rafa’s potential route to the final:

  • 1st round: bye
  • 2nd round: Llyod Harris
  • 3rd round: Grigor Dimitrov
  • Quarter-final: Diego Schwartzman
  • Semi-final: Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • Final: Danill Medvedev

If the men play to seed the quarter-final line up will be:

  • Danill Medvedev vs Hubert Hurkacz
  • Andrey Rublev vs Denis Shapovalov
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Matteo Berettini
  • Casper Ruud vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • Diego Schwartzman vs Rafael Nadal

View Draw

In the Open Era, Ivan Lendl is the most successful male player, with six titles to his name. Rafa, a five-time champion, could equal that record by winning the 2021 title.



  1. Thanks Lorna, David and Ginagigi for your respective insightful views about Rafa on hard surface. In all fairness, Rafa has indeed proved his mettle on hard courts and grass, albeit both Djokovic and Federer managed to achieve better consistent results on fast surfaces. Apart from these two, Rafa does have better stats (somehow I keep bringing in stats repeatedly) compared to any other hard-court specialists of current generation as well as of previous generation barring Sampras, Agassi and Lendl. Among the current players, only Murray comes closer to what Rafa has achieved on hard courts in spite of being his least favourite surface.

    Much has been said about Rafa’s serve failing him in recent times. It’s true that Rafa’s serve, especially the first serve, is not at the level like it used to be in the past. However, more noticeably his serve had been deserting him at crucial junctures whenever he needed to put in a good serve at pressure points like break-points or during the tie-breaks. Overall, if Rafa can put >60% of his first serves in and win around 80% of points on first serve, he should be more than ok. As a case study against Lloyd Harris, Rafa was serving 64% on first serve and winning 79% points on his first serves, which was good enough. However, while facing break-points, Rafa just couldn’t produce a lethal first serve to save the break-points. To me, this was the real difference. A good first serve is something which can consistently bail you out from difficult situations – something which Sampras used to do on regular basis, as well as Federer until couple of years ago.

    To me, Rafa’s serve deserting him on crucial points is an indication of more of a psychological issue rather than anything else.

    With advancing years, every player makes some adjustments to his game to compensate for slower reflexes and depleting stamina as a consequence of ever-ticking body clock. Probably Rafa also needs to consider making some adjustments to his game by doing the following more often:

    1) Conserve energy as much as possible by trying to cut down the length of rallies; there was a time when Rafa would have been the favourite if the match would go the distance. Not anymore. If a match goes the full distance, Rafa is likely to be more susceptible to fatigue than his opponents;

    2) Don’t try to hit every ball ferociously as it takes away lot of precious energy; pull the trigger only when necessary;

    3) Move forward by a couple of steps to return the serves; Rafa concedes more aces to his opponents compared to others simply because he stands too far behind the baseline thereby giving away a wider angle to the big servers; Rafa should try more often to use the power of big servers against them by timing the returns rather than always forcing the returns;

    4) When the chips are down, try to mix up your game tactics more often instead of being quite predictable; this could be through different court movements, starting to play more from inside the court, frequently changing service return positions to cast some doubts in the mind of server, coming more often to the nets (although Rafa is very good with volleys and overhead smashes, he is still quite underrated for these shots) etc. etc.

    5) And for a change, try to put on a kind of smile (like Djokovic does) during a pressure-cooker like situation – it does help release the intense pressure. Rafa rarely smiles during a match – not even when Soderling tried to make fun of him during Wimbledon 2007.

    6) And last but not least, and more importantly, settle the score with Harris tomorrow.

    • His is the 2nd daytime match after FAA plays. Should be @ approx. 1 pm. There is a high risk of thunderstorms so that is subject to change.,

      • Thanks Mark. I think a 1 pm match will suit Rafa just fine!

        Djokovic is out for Cincinnati due to rest concerns. My view is that Rafa should play Cincinnati, as long as his foot is OK.

    • David,

      Rafa himself asked to play in the afternoon. Perhaps he’s thinking of the family back home? A 7 pm match is much better for them than one at 1am.

      The National Bank Open Twitter gives all the inside scoop.

      • Rafa has always preferred to play in the sun and wind and all the elements. He dislikes the indoor tournaments as we all know. Maybe Najam can explain why day time tennis is better for Rafa ( probably the heat and the bounce).

        I bet the pandemic bubbles are also a factor if it means sitting in a hotel room all day.

        Thanks again Mark.

      • @David Holtzman – The answer is quite simple. Rafa loves Sun, Sand and Sea – doesn’t he? 🙂

  2. ATP Tournament Update”

    “NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner won the biggest title of his career on Sunday when he defeated American Mackenzie McDonald 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 after two hours and 53 minutes to triumph at the Citi Open.

    Sinner, 19, is the youngest player to lift an ATP 500 trophy since the category was created in 2009. This is the Italian’s third tour-level title and his second of 2021 after winning an ATP 250 in Melbourne at the beginning of the season.”

    • A very close match with some powerful hitting. Congratulations to Sinner on his first 500 title victory. I hope this talented young man develops a warmer, more engaging personality, as he’s a bit deadpan and cold looking on court at the moment.

    • It was an interesting match with a lot of breaks and close games but not really high quality. Lots of errors on both sides. Mackie’s brilliant but doesn’t have a lot of power. Sinner has plenty of power but isn’t original.

      I missed Rafa.

  3. Happy Birthday Rog… It’s a big one for you buddy!! lol Wishing you a speedy recovery ….
    We want you in NY!!!

    For Rafa the DC matches were filled with rust and pain…. Hopefully the pain has subsided and he is working on every element of his game that needs improvement… The first serve has always been a big issue for me
    throughout the past few years and I’m hoping he is devoting enough time to turn it up…. Standing where he does on the back of the baseline, well that’s been a conversation we have had for years…. I agree with David… I don’t think we will see much of a change on Rafa’s stance during his opponents first service… He finds a comfort there as he gauges his return of service … The only way he comes forward is during his opponents second serve…

    Look… Rafa is a force…. He gets better and better with every match he plays… If he meets Harris again. Rafa’s team will need to go to the tapes and dissect his last game with Rafa if they haven’t done it already…… Rafa will have to change up a few things but I believe he can take him out and he will ….

    I believe in you Rafa….Always have….always will….

    22 days and counting till I see that cutey again!

    VAMOS RAFA!!!!

  4. Genny SS retweeted:

    Mike McIntyre
    “My question today to Rafa Nadal about the importance of his first title in Canada at the 2005
    @OBNmontreal where he defeated Andre Agassi in the Final. It was the first @atptour hardcourt trophy of Nadal’s career and of course many more would follow!”

  5. Najam, thanks for your analysis on Rafa’s game. You make some good points. Much of what you said about our champ’s game style on hard court is true and many of us on this site have made the same observations over the years.

    Rafa does hit a harder, flatter backhand now, but it’s more difficult for him to hit a flatter forehand with any regularity. The first serve has been Rafa’s achilles heel in recent times and this fundamental element of his game, along with better groundstroke accuracy, are what’s vital for him to fix. Of course, underlying all this is his confidence level and we mustn’t underestimate the power of the opponents out there. I’ll be interested to see what adjustments Rafa makes in Toronto.

    • As we all know, hard court is not Rafa’s best surface but he has won the USOpen four times (more times than he has won the Australian Open (1) and Wimbledon (2); so we know he can do it, if he plays closer to the baseline and serves well, which he did when he last won there and the time before that too.
      That said, the younger players are now really beginning to make their mark; so the odds against Rafa winning another US Open at this stage in his career are not great. (Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see him win of course.)
      Unfortunately, Rafa has not been able to play many matches this year so his confidence is not where it needs to be. This coupled with his foot problem (which probably explains why Rafa’s play deteriorated in the FO Final against Djokovic, after a strong start) means that he is going to find it tough.
      For Rafa to do well in New York we need his foot to improve sufficiently, to enable him to play on hard courts without pain. That will free him to concentrate on his game. Rafa knows what he has to do in Toronto and New York but he needs to be able to move well without pain to do it. Very best wishes to Rafa.

  6. We all want Rafa to win at the US Open and other hard court events leading to it, but let’s face it – hard court is not Rafa’s most successful surface.

    Stats don’t lie. His win ratio is 91.5% on clay, but it significantly drops to 78% on grass and 77.9% on hard courts. Djokovic wins 80.5% on clay, 85% on grass and 84.2% on hard courts. Federer wins 76.1% on clay, 86.9% on grass and 83.5% on hard courts.

    Rafa leads Djokovic by 19-8 on clay, but is only 7-20 on hard courts against the same opponent and tied at 2-2 on grass. Moreover, Rafa has not beaten Djokovic on hard courts since US Open 2013. Whereas Federer holds a much better H2H record of 18-20 on hard courts against Djokovic.

    So, why is Rafa relatively low in success on hard courts? The answer is quite simple – Rafa does not make enough adjustments to his core game on hard courts. He continues to receive the serve from a very deep position on hard courts allowing his opponents to often dictate Rafa’s service returns. Rafa is especially vulnerable on hard courts when his opponents are hitting deep shots from inside their court taking huge advantage on Rafa’s shorter returns. On any surface, whenever an opponent starts moving inside the court (or coming to the nets) with deep shots into Rafa’s court, Rafa starts showing more vulnerability than his early playing days until 2010.

    Remember Dustin Brown upsetting Rafa twice on grass in 2014 and 2015? Or, Djokovic outplaying Rafa in AO in 2019 (which was aptly avenged by Rafa in FO last year)? The root cause was that Rafa continued to receive serve from a deep return position and his opponents were taking the ball early from well inside the court for a very deep shot into Rafa’s court. Or, remember Tsitsipas staging a remarkable but heart-breaking comeback in AO quarterfinals this year defeating Rafa after trailing by two sets to love. Tsitsipas simply changed his game plan by hitting the ball deeper from inside his court or coming to the net more often.

    In my opinion, Rafa’s heavy top-spins that do wonders on clay courts actually work to his disadvantage on hard courts whenever he hits top-spins not deep enough into opponent’s court.

    So, what should Rafa do on hard courts and grass to improve his win ratio? Two simple adjustments in my humble opinion – (1) Receive the serve from a less deeper position and return it with more timing rather than heavy top-spin; and (2) hit the ball flat and deep during rallies more often than mostly hitting top-spins during long rallies. On a side note, the heavy top-spins are physically more draining than quick shots with timing. Rafa needs to conserve more energy now than his early playing days when he was at the peak of his stamina.

    And lastly, I strongly wish Rafa to win the US Open. It would be the icing-on-the-cake if Djokovic meets Nick Kyrgios in the early rounds at the US Open who would oust him in straight sets to extend the H2H record to 3-0 against Djokovic. If this happens, I am going to listen to Kyrgios’ post-match press conference at least 10 times 😊

    • Just a few comments to the informative analysis of Rafa’s game provided by Ginagigi and Najam.

      As to his top spin heavy game, some commentators have said that Rafa has had success af the U.S. Open because the hard court at Flushing Meadows yields a higher bounce. I believe that the U.S. Open went to a new type of hard court surface in 2020 so we shall have to wait and see how the ball bounces these days.

      As to Rafa standing so deep to receive serve I don’t see that changing. This evolved from the increasing number of very heavy hitters on the tour. In fact many others have adopted this tactic. Rafa prefers to take the ball on the downward part of the bounce because he can hit the ball with more authority and he generally does achieve a deep return.

      Against Harris Rafa figured something out in that second set when receiving serve. He was often moving before Harris struck the ball especially when Harris was trying to serve down the T. That seemed to change in the third set though Rafa did have his chances at a break.

      Happy Birthday to Roger!

      • I didn’t know that the US Open had changed their surface David. (Historically, they used to lay a surface which best suited their top players, Connors, McEnroe and Roddick to name but three), I do hope it is not faster, which will undoubtedly benefit the big servers, like Zverev and Berrettini. Medvedev and Tsitsipas can also hit big serves. (All of these players are at least 6 foot 4 inches tall.)
        Rafa has played rather closer to the baseline in New York in the last few years (when compared with his position on clay) but, as you say, it is very difficult to return very big serves from the baseline on a hard court, especially for Rafa who likes and needs time on the ball to generate the heavy topspin on his forehand. You are right of course. Rafa is not suddenly going to start hitting big, flat forehands on a rising ball at this stage in his career. (He does hit the backhand hard and flat and that shot is much improved but he is not going to change his forehand; which is, after all, his signature shot and the shot that has brought him a record number of titles on clay, especially in Paris.
        Years ago the big servers tended to struggle with their movement; so they were beatable ‘on the run’ but that is no longer the case. The younger big servers now move well too. So, it will be very important for Rafa to hold his serve and be ready to exploit any break point opportunities that may come his way. However, he will not be able to do this if he is in pain and his movement is impaired. Let’s hope his foot continues to improve, though playing on hard courts every day is not going to help with that. Tough times ahead for Rafa I fear.

    • I also wish him all the very best. To me, Federer is much more than just one of greatest tennis player of all times. He is very classy, trendy, elegant, intelligent, eloquent and very articulate in several different languages.

      Federer deserves a better end to his illustrious career than frequently losing out to average players at the twilight of his career. I wish he would have won the Wimbledon in 2019, which he truly deserved on all counts and stats, and would have retired on the highest possible point like Pistol Pete did after winning the US Open in 2002.

    • Very best wishes to Roger on his 40th. Hoping for more positive news about his fitness in the coming weeks.

      I echo everthing that Najam has said about Roger – a true icon of the sport.

      • Not to forget that Felix shares Roger’s birthday. Happy 21st Felix. Continued success young man.

      • Thanks for the reminder, Pauline. All the very best to Feix on his 21st birthday.

  7. Rafa, you can do this. Harris was just lucky in DC. You can win. You are a much better player than he is! Plus you were tired and the time change is tough from Spain to DC!! Vamos! Can’t wait!! You are a true Champion!!

  8. Rafa good luck vamosssssss champ 💪💪💪❤️❤️❤️🎾🇺🇸

  9. You just never know! Rafa could kick some serious butt here in Canada.
    I can’t wait to watch him play!
    Best of luck to you sweetie boo xoxo

  10. Just wondering how there can be five “quarter-final” matches. Rublev v. Shapo appears to be the one that doesn’t fit.

    Yes its the serve that explains the loss versus Harris. I thought Rafa’s serve in the second set in D.C. was really strong. Harris is talented but Rafa should be able to handle him.

    Let’s go Rafa!

  11. Yet again dear Rafa, the odds are stacked… there is a new Rogers Cup Trophy so I think it will be fitting that its’ first recipient should be you. You will do your best as always and we your devoted fans expect nothing more. Buena Suerte my Champion ☘🇮🇪🇪🇸🇮🇪☘

  12. I know that Rafa does not believe in retribution, but he will like to show that his faux pas vs Llloyd Harris at Washington DC will not happen twice in a row. He will be on guard and ante up that service game which essentially did him in that last game of set 3. Rafa will continually get stronger and will persevere through each match getting better and better as the US Open draws near. Vamos Champion! 🙂

  13. Tough draw for you Rafa but onwards and upwards you can do this and wish you the very best of luck. Vamos x

  14. Great King Rafa come backdoor washington DC next year because we need This trophy in our collection

  15. Time for Rafa to settle scores with Lloyd Harris. If he passes the Harris’ test (and I’m sure, he will as nobody out of top-ten beats Rafa twice in a row), Rafa might actually meet Nick Kyrgios in the next round. It’s a tricky but a mouthwatering draw.

      • Yes, awesome and mouthwatering only from the watching point of view with Rafa triumphing eventually.

        And I seriously wish Djokovic squaring off against Nick Kyrgios in the second round of the US Open with Kyrgios winning in straight sets while extending his head-to-head record to 3-0 against Djokovic.

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