Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic will look to continue his quest for a fifth Canadian Open title when he takes on wild card Peter Polansky. The Serbian has been on an upward curve since reuniting with his coach Marian Vajda and trainer Gebhard Gritsch and is now surely amongst the favourites in Canada. But Polansky will have the vocal support of the Canadian crowd and plenty of motivation to claim one of the biggest scalps in the sport. Who will come out on top?
Djokovic and Polansky have met just once previously in a match also played in Canada, although in Montreal rather than Toronto. It came in 2009 in the second round and it was a fairly comfortable victory for Djokovic who won 6-4 7-6. He is also, unsurprisingly, vastly more experienced than Polansky. He has 809 career victories to the Canadian’s 19 and 69 titles, including 13 Grand Slams and 30 Masters 1000 titles to Polansky’s none.
Path to the second round
Djokovic began his campaign against the Bosnian lucky loser Mirza Basic who replaced the injured Hyeon Chung in the draw. Djokovic began well, breaking through Basic’s resistance in the sixth game of the first set and closing it out shortly after 6-3. The second set looked to be following a similar pattern when he broke at the midway point, but Basic broke straight back. Djokovic broke again to lead 6-5 only to again immediately drop serve, but he wrapped up the win 7-3 in the tiebreak.
Polansky, playing the Canadian Open for the third straight year, opened his tournament against Australia’s Matthew Ebden. Ebden is having one of the best seasons of his career and played some excellent tennis throughout the grass court swing and also reached the semifinals in Atlanta two weeks ago. But in Toronto, it was Polansky who claimed victory, winning the first set on a tiebreak before breaking decisively in the second set to win 7-6 6-4.
How do they match up?
Lately, Djokovic has been playing with the same consistent and controlled aggression from the back of the court that was the hallmark of his years of success. He is confident taking the ball on with both his forehand and backhand and though not amongst the biggest hitters on Tour, he does not lack power. His defensive skills and court coverage are also second to none with his ability to keep the ball deep even under pressure making hitting through him incredibly difficult.
Polansky will have to deliver one of the best serving performances of his life against Djokovic who is amongst the greatest returners the game has ever produced. Although that side of his game looked slightly rusty against Basic, he will surely be looking to tighten it up against Polansky who may pay the price. The Canadian, although a consistent baseliner, is also short of power on both wings which will leave him forced to try and outlast Djokovic, a difficult proposition indeed.
Djokovic looked very sharp against Basic in the first set and anything but in the second. But it was his first match in the better part of a month and some rust is to be expected even from the game’s very best. And crucially, Basic never really looked like he could win the match. Polansky will find himself in a similar boat as the Bosnian. He doesn’t have the weapons to challenge Djokovic and the Serbian will likely be more focused than he was against Basic. Djokovic in straight sets.