Preview: Highest Seed Standing, Ruud Faces Felix Friday
Opportunity is knocking for Casper Ruud as he readies for the quarter-finals of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers Friday for the second consecutive year. Daniil Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas, all summarily dismissed on an upset-filled Wednesday in Montreal, are out, leaving the Norwegian as the highest-remaining seed.
“It will be interesting to see what’s going to happen. I will be here tomorrow fighting for a place in the semi-finals,” said the Norwegian, who improved to 37-13 on the year with a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-4 turnaround against Roberto Bautista Agut, his first win over the Spaniard in three attempts. “I guess I’m the highest-ranked still standing, still surviving, but it will be a new match tomorrow.”
The Roland Garros finalist will go up against homegrown favorite Felix Auger-Aliassime, who, with a 6-3, 6-4 dismissal of ninth seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, became the first Quebecois to reach the final eight in his native Montreal.
“Montreal people, French Canadians, are really proud people. We’re a small community in the world and we support each other in everything we do,” said Auger-Aliassime, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Monday. “Especially in professional sports, I think whenever you see an athlete coming from the province of Quebec do things on the world stage, people are very proud. It makes me proud to be in that position, for sure.”
Their ATP Head2Head stands at an even 1-1, with Ruud having captured their most recent encounter last year in the opening round in Madrid, 6-1, 6-4.
The clay-raised Ruud continues to build an impressive hard-court resume. Last year, he reached back-to-back quarter-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati before capturing the San Diego crown. In April, he punched his way through to the final of the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami (l. to Alcaraz, 7-5, 6-4). Continued success during the North American summer swing would further his case for a spot in Turin and the year-end Nitto ATP Finals.
“He’s a tough opponent,” said Auger-Aliassime. “He’s one of the most solid and consistent players we have right now on the Tour. Of course, we all know his quality on clay, but I feel like in the last year he’s improved tremendously all his shots. The forehand has always been good, the backhand has improved a lot, the serve as well. He’s very good physically. I’m expecting a tough match. He’s not an easy guy to beat.”
FOLLOW THIS WEEK'S ACTION
Riding a streak that has seen him win 15 of his past 16 singles matches, a run that includes the Wimbledon final and the Washington title, Australian Nick Kyrgios is into his first quarter-final on Canadian soil, and will face eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz on Friday. The Pole prevailed in their only previous encounter, in June, en route to the Halle title.
“These days are starting to blend into one another. I’m just kind of playing the game, physio, eat sleep, play — it’s tiring, but that’s the sport,” said Kyrgios. “I am missing home a little bit, I’m not going to lie. I’ve got my mum, my dad who I haven’t seen in about three months. But at the same time, I know I’ve only got a couple more tournaments before I go home.”
The 27-year-old will surely take solace in the fact that his recent surge (and the resulting Pepperstone ATP Rankings jump) will see him seeded at the US Open, which gets underway later this month.
“It was a goal more so I didn’t get one of the big titans or gods in the first round,” he said. “Now I can actually work my way into the draw if the draw is kind. I always feel as if my game is right there. I always feel that, no matter who I play.”
Once again above the .500 mark at 18-17 on the year, Brit Daniel Evans got past 10th seed Taylor Fritz for the second time in a matter of days, and will now face another American in the zoning Tommy Paul. Evans’ countryman, 82nd-ranked Jack Draper, meets Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who upset seventh seed Jannik Sinner.