© Pascal Ratthe

Roger Federer attends a practice session prior to the Coupe Rogers in Montreal.

Fond Memories Welcome Federer In Montreal Return

Swiss returns to Montreal for the first time in six years

It's not often that Roger Federer walks through the grounds of an ATP World Tour event without memories of lifting the trophy. But that is the case this week in Montreal, as the Swiss makes his long-awaited return to the Stade Uniprix.

Appearing for the first time in six years, Federer has reached the final just once in the Canadian metropolis, falling to Novak Djokovic in 2007. The Coupe Rogers has witnessed the 35 year old lift the trophy on two occasions, defeating Andy Roddick in 2004 and Richard Gasquet in 2006, but both victories came in Toronto (the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event alternates between the two cities every year). But Federer says that despite his lack of great success in Montreal, there is one moment - an off-court memory - that stands out above the rest.

"I remember the Djokovic match in the 2007 final and maybe a match against [Gaston] Gaudio where I saved match point," said Federer. "It feels a little like a blur to be honest. But my most important one was in 2009, when my girls were two weeks old.

"It was our first trip as a family. They just got their passports and traveled here. I remember we had an unbelievable time and I was trying to be a dad for the first time. It was all out of control in the nicest possible way. It was here in Montreal, so it will always be special for me here. This year, I'm here without the family so it's a bit different and bit more quiet. I'll plan on resting and sleeping while I can."

The Coupe Rogers is the third-oldest tour-level event on the calendar, behind only Wimbledon and the US Open, and its Montreal venue - the Stade Uniprix - has plenty of history itself. It is the former site of Jarry Park Stadium, where the now extinct Montreal Expos (of Major League Baseball) once played. Much of the core seating and some lighting even remains intact, as a tribute to Montreal's sporting history.

With fans already flowing into the venue for qualifying and to catch a glimpse of the top stars practising, Federer acknowledged the great energy and excitement around the grounds.

"What I see here is a soul in this tournament and a soul in the Centre Court. It's not totally symmetrical, which makes it unique as well. They're either a box or a circle. In most venues, they're the same, but here they're not.

"The crowd is full most of the time and there are day and night sessions, which is nice. There's a great energy in the town and they can sense that tennis is back. They only have this one big tournament during the year and fans make the most of it. I hope we can make it a great experience for fans who show up and pay good money for the tickets."

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With Rafael Nadal seeded first and Federer second, it marks the first time since 2011 that the two legends are leading the pack at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. Federer is soaring into Montreal, having won 11 consecutive matches, with title runs on the grass of the Gerry Weber Open and Wimbledon. He has also won 11 straight matches on hard courts, claiming the Masters 1000 crowns in Indian Wells and Miami in March.

Despite Federer and Nadal headlining the tournament, notable withdrawals include Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, who all pulled out due to injury. The Swiss lamented the absence of three of his biggest rivals from one of the ATP World Tour's biggest tournaments.

"I hope it's not going to continue like this, where everyone takes the second part of the season off. Novak and now Stan, who might need to have surgery. Cilic too and the same with Andy. I hope that when they come back, they will be in very good form and when Novak and Stan return next year that they will be in good shape.

"I don't like to see it, but when you take a few months off in the middle of a 15-20 year career, it might not be that much. Sometimes when you have no choice, it makes it easier. It's about staying positive in those difficult moments. But I wish all those guys all the strength they need."

Federer is a global icon, but might have the crowd against him in his opener, facing a Canadian wild card in Vasek Pospisil or Peter Polansky. Fifth seed Kei Nishikori looms large in his quarter of the draw, with third seed Dominic Thiem a potential semi-final opponent.

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