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Rogers Cup 2017: 3 things we learned from day 1

After the first day of action in Montreal, the top seeds may not have featured, but there was still plenty of action to enjoy. Here’s what we learned from day 1.

Juan Martin Del Potro is still a force to be feared

The ‘Tower of Tandil’ Juan Martin Del Potro’s clash with John Isner was perhaps the most intriguing of the first round matches in Canada. John Isner came into the tournament in fine form. Though the big American had to withdraw from the Washington Open through injury, he won in Newport and Atlanta back to back without dropping a set. In fact, he dropped serve only once in the eight matches he won. Del Potro, who fell early at Wimbledon and lost in the third round of the Washington Open to Nishikori, did not come into the match in such inspiring form. But when it came down to it, he showed the qualities of a champion that he’s always had.

The first set was tight and looked to be heading towards a tiebreak. That’s hardly a surprise when two such giants clash. Isner stands at a massive 6 feet 10 inches, whilst Del Potro comes in at 6 feet 6 inches. In fact, since Del Potro returned from his left wrist injury they possess very similar games. Both are huge servers, particularly Isner, and come armed with sledgehammer forehands. Del Potro hits arguably a bigger forehand than any other player to have picked up a racquet. But neither have particularly sturdy backhands. The two were evenly matched until the eleventh game of the set. There, with Isner serving, Del Potro stole a march, breaking the American as rain started to come down. A lengthy delay followed, but Del Potro was unperturbed and came out to serve it out comfortably enough.

The second set was another tight contest. Again the 11th game proved to be pivotal. With the score locked at 5-5, Del Potro stepped up his intensity. He fashioned two break points, but Isner refused to fold and saved them both. The two battled for the game for eight minutes until Del Potro put every ounce of strength into a mighty forehand. Against that sort of power no player has the answer, and so it proved for Isner as his serve was once again broken. Del Potro served out the match easily to remind the tennis world what he is capable of. Not for nothing did Del Potro storm to a US Open title when he was only twenty. Though injuries may have diminished his powers somewhat, he is still a player to be feared.

David Ferrer continues to rage against the dying of the light, but Kyle Edmund must improve

Britain’s Kyle Edmund is something of a confusing prospect. Watching him at his best he looks like a certainty to break into the top ten but is yet to actually really crack the main tour. A career high ranking of 40 is a solid effort for a 22-year-old, but not a great one, particularly when compared with some of his peers. David Ferrer, once ranked 3rd in the world, illustrated in his win against Edmund what it takes to be a top 10 player. That is, the ability to use your strengths effectively and manage your weaknesses.

In that department, Edmund has a long way to go. His forehand which is vaunted as one of the best on tour is a very powerful shot and can help Edmund to win matches. But he misses with it far too often. Power must be tempered with accuracy, and whilst Edmund continues to press too much with that shot, he will not find the success he could. Similarly, he must work on improving a backhand and second serve that can be exploited, as Ferrer was able to do. The wily Spaniard kept up the pressure on Edmund even after dropping the set and was rewarded with the victory eventually. Speaking of which, Ferrer deserves great credit for his accomplishments this season. 

It is the worst he has had in terms of results for at least a decade. His once unbeatable status against lower ranked players has diminished and vanished, but he has not shied away from the fight. Rather he has redoubled his efforts, despite the decreasing gains. Doubtless, that makes victories such as against Edmund, or his triumph in Bastad, all the sweeter. Long may he continue to defy the encroachment of time, even if it is a hopeless struggle. It’s at least a fitting one for the tireless Ferrer.

There’s no limit to what Kyrgios can do

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios has struggled of late, largely due to injuries, although he has also shown some troubling mental lapses. His ranking has fallen from its early season high of 13 to leave him 24th in the world. But he showed against Viktor Troicki what he can do when he is healthy and engaged. His serve, which is one of the best in the game, was terrific. He strikes it with less power than some, but it is incredibly accurate. Indeed, his ability to hit a dime with pace is better probably only by Federer, and even the great Swiss’ advantage is at best marginal in that department. His forehand was also devastating, repeatedly driving the Serbian back.

But it is his backhand that deserves the most credit for his win. For Troicki, the backhand is the key strength, and the Serbian is incredibly versatile with the shot. But Kyrgios has improved out of sight from that wing, and he met Troicki blow for blow and won most of the time. He also struck a couple of sweet returns from the backhand and generally impressed from that side. It was a reminder as to why Kyrgios is so highly rated. Beyond the bluster, the outbursts and the injuries is a superb natural talent. Kyrgios in Montreal hearkened back to the player that defeated Djokovic twice in two weeks and came within a point, and some shocking crowd behaviour, of defeating Federer in Miami. If he can keep focused, he has the game to mount a serious title charge in Montreal or Cincinnati. Stranger things have certainly happened.

What was your standout moment on day 1 of the Rogers Cup? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jim Smith

I'm Jim, and I'm RealSport's tennis editor. I'm currently studying history as an undergraduate at Warwick.

I love tennis, but I'm also a diehard fan of Tottenham Hotspur, as well as being a supporter of the Dallas Mavericks and the Carolina Panthers.

Rogers Cup 2017: 3 things we learned from day 1

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