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Alexander Zverev and Elina Svitolina eye title defence in Canada – Six things to know about the Rogers Cup

The world's top players on both the women's and men's tours descend on Canada for the Rogers Cup this week. Here are six things to know about the action in Montreal and Toronto.

Reem Abulleil 2018/08/06

The Rogers Cup commences on Monday with Simona Halep leading the field in Montreal and Rafael Nadal the top seed in Toronto.

Germany’s No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev is the defending champion and heads to Canada in the same position he was in 12 months ago, fresh off of a title run at the Citi Open in Washington D.C.

Ukrainian world No. 5 Elina Svitolina is the title holder and will be making her first appearance since a disappointing first-round exit at Wimbledon last month.

Here are six things to know about this week’s Rogers Cup.

STRONG ON DEFENCE

Both Zverev and Svitolina have had success as defending champions.

Zverev repeated his title runs in Munich and Washington this year after lifting the trophies there in 2017, while Svitolina went back-to-back in both Dubai and Rome in 2017 and 2018. She also defended her Baku title back in 2014.

While they are yet to fulfil their Grand Slam potential, Zverev and Svitolina have certainly established themselves as powerhouses on tour and do not succumb to the pressure of being the reigning champion at a tournament.

VARIETY

The ATP Rogers Cup is the only one of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments to be won by five different players over the past five editions, with Alexander Zverev (2017), Novak Djokovic (2016), Andy Murray (2015), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2014), and Rafael Nadal (2013) crowned champions in Canada over the last few seasons. Will we get a sixth different winner in a row this week?

THE ABSENTEES

After losing in the San Jose first round last week to Johanna Konta, Serena Williams pulled out of Montreal citing personal reasons. Fellow Americans CoCo Vandeweghe (right ankle) and Madison Keys (right wrist) have also pulled out while Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova – a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last month – has withdrawn due to illness.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer and Andy Murray are the most notable absentees with the former opting for a light schedule and the latter recovering from a gruelling few matches in Washington last week.

SIZZLING OPENERS

In Toronto, Novak Djokovic opens against Chung Hyeon, who defeated the Serb en route to the Australian Open semi-finals in January. Swiss wildcard Stan Wawrinka faces Aussie big-hitter Nick Kyrgios, No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman takes on British No. 1 Kyle Edmund, home favourite Milos Raonic kicks off his campaign against No. 10 seed David Goffin while Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas squares off with Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

In Montreal, 12th-seeded Daria Kasatkina opens against San Jose runner-up Maria Sakkari, Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka faces Spanish qualifier Carla Suarez Navarro, ex-world No. 1 and Belarusian wildcard Victoria Azarenka takes on crafty Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic and local wildcard Eugenie Bouchard starts against 14th-seeded Elise Mertens.

TOP SPOT

On the men’s tour, the No. 1 ranking has swapped hands between Nadal and Federer six times already this season, but with Nadal now a healthy 2,230 points ahead of the Swiss in the rankings, and Federer opting out of Toronto, which means he’ll drop runner-up points from last year, the gap between the pair will increase this week.

Simona Halep started her 40th week (24th in a row) as world No. 1 on Monday and is 851 points ahead of second-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. Halep has semi-final points to defend from last year in Canada, while Wozniacki has runner-up points to defend. The Dane cannot usurp Halep in the rankings this week.

EYES ON THE WIMBLEDON CHAMPS

Angelique Kerber will be making her first appearance since lifting the Wimbledon trophy last month – her third Grand Slam title – while Djokovic is also playing for the first time since claiming a fourth crown at the All England Club. With both of them back on their favourite surface, the pair will be looking to keep the momentum going on the hard courts of Canada.

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Alexander Zverev Andy Murray Angelique Kerber Canada Masters Elina Svitolina Novak Djokovic Rogers Cup Serena Williams Simona Halep