Rafa returns in Toronto

Rafael Nadal returns to competition after his shock third-round exit in Washington last week admitting his left foot is still a problem but, as the 2nd seed at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Toronto, he receives a bye.

After Paris my foot was not recovering. I was in a lot of pain for a couple of weeks so I couldn’t train. I stayed around 20 days without touching a racket, trying to recover. Rafael Nadal

The foot issue kept him out of Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics but he hopes the US Open tune-up event in Toronto will help him to regain confidence in his on-court movements.

“It’s been a couple of tough months for me in terms of physical issues,” World No 3 Nadal told reporters at the Masters 1000 event in Toronto, where first-round action starts on Monday.

“I know I am not at my peak yet but I think I have been practising better than what I played in Washington so I am excited to keep going here and be able to play a little bit better than there.”

Nadal said a recurring foot issue he has been dealing with since 2005 returned at Roland Garros, where he fell to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals before deciding to sit out two of the year’s biggest events.

“Some moments the situation is worse and some moments the situation is better,” said Nadal.

“After Paris my foot was not recovering. I was in a lot of pain for a couple of weeks so I couldn’t train. I stayed around 20 days without touching a racket, trying to recover.”

Daniil Medvedev returns from Tokyo 2020 to lead the field in Toronto

© Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The tournament was dealt a blow when Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti was withdrawn after having left the tournament’s COVID-19 controlled environment, Tennis Canada said on Saturday.

The World No 60 is replaced by alternate Max Purcell.

“As per the letter of approval issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the National Bank Open to run the event, any individual leaving the controlled environment is in breach of COVID-19 protocol and will be unable to re-enter to compete at the event,” Tennis Canada said in a news release.

World No 2 Daniil Medvedev from Russia, who reached the quarter-finals in Tokyo leads the field, which also features Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, also from Russia, and home favourtie Denis Shapovalov as the top seeds alongside Nadal.

Wild-card Nick Kyrgios headlines Day 1 when he squares off against another big server in American Reilly Opelka.

The Australian owns a 5-6 record in Canada’s ATP Masters 1000 event, but has fallen at the first hurdle in his previous two outings here.

The World No 77 has contested only 5 tour-level events in 2021 and has gone 1-2 in North America since Wimbledon, including an opening-round defeat to eventual finalist Mackenzie McDonald at the Citi Open last week.

His best wins this season both came over Frenchman Ugo Humbert in 5 sets at a major, the 2nd round at the Australian Open, and first round at Wimbledon.

This week marks the first time since the North American hard-court swing in 2019 that Kyrgios has played 3 tournaments back-to-back.

“I don’t take any match for granted any more. Every time I’m at an event, at a special one… I don’t take any day for granted,” Kyrgios said in Washington, DC last week. “I love being around it.

“I try and soak in as much as I can. Just the practice, being around the courts, being at the highest level, I don’t take that for granted.”

World No 37 Marin Cilic contests his first event since claiming a silver medal in doubles with Ivan Dodig at the Tokyo Olympics last month.

The 32-year-old, who went down to eventual bronze medallist Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round of the singles, faces Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas in the first round on Monday.

Cilic leads the pair’s ATP head-to-head ledger 4-3, but the Spaniard claimed their most recent encounter in straight sets in Shanghai 2 years ago.

Dan Evans returns to action at the Canadian Open on Monday

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

British World No 27 Daniel Evans carries a 1-1 ATP head-to-head record into his first round in Toronto against dangerous 24-year-old Alexander Bublik.

Evans prevailed on hard court in Adelaide last year, while Bublik claimed the rubber for Kazakhstan on an indoor hard court in the 2019 Davis Cup Finals in Spain.

The winner will meet top seed Medvedev for a place in the round of 16.

Italian Fabio Fognini and German Jan-Lennard Struff have also split their 2 ATP meetings ahead of their first-round clash in Toronto.

World No 32 Fognini comes off a 3-set round of 16 defeat to Medvedev in Tokyo, while World No 46 Struff fell to top seed Djokovic there in the second round. 4th seed Rublev awaits in the second round.



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