I am going to do something I don’t enjoy: I am going to admit that I am afraid this week at the Rogers Cup… at least through Wednesday.
I am afraid of writing a story saying that a specific match is significant… because I think that the subsequent 24 hours might tear my verdict to pieces.
In a more serious and straightforward way, I am trying to say that I have very little clue about the Rogers Cup’s match outcomes. I don’t know what means something and what means nothing.
The best starting point: Wednesday’s match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic in Montreal.
On Monday, I wrote about the small-scale but positive reality that Raonic played well against Lucas Pouille — who beat Milos in the Australian Open quarterfinals earlier this year — and created a measure of hope.
Wednesday, Raonic exited Montreal with a back injury, two years after exiting Montreal with a wrist injury.
— Life in Québec (@LifeinQuebec) August 10, 2017
The attempt to write profoundly about Milos Raonic was swallowed up by another cod-slam, brother-trucking injury. That Monday column was sincere and earnest, but its shelf life lasted two days. Who wants to do that?
That’s why I’m afraid.
Let’s look elsewhere: Bianca Andreescu came back to win another 3-setter — it’s what she does — on Wednesday. I could get caught up in the excitement, but these long and taxing matches could put her shoulder at risk and derail her. It doesn’t seem particularly responsible to write a gushing, celebratory column, even though there is so much in the teenager’s game which is genuinely worth celebrating.
Bianca Andreescu assured me in her post-match press conference that the tape around her thigh was precautionary more than anything and that the shoulder rotations between some points were just to keep things loose. She’s tired after two long @rogerscup matches but good to go.
— Mike McIntyre (@protennisfan) August 8, 2019
I am afraid to praise Bianca Andreescu too heavily right now.
I am afraid to dump on Denis Shapovalov after his loss to second-seeded Dominic Thiem. Shapo is still just 20 years old. He has a lot of growing up to do… which is not a problem. It’s called being 20 years old. This is normal, not cause for alarm. Not every loss can or should be viewed as a crisis.
I am afraid to overhype other big wins — Cristian Garin over John Isner, or Hubert Hurkacz over Stefanos Tsitsipas — because the losing player isn’t in great form right now.
I am afraid to overreact to discouraging losses — Borna Coric getting blown out by Adrian Mannarino, Ashleigh Barty losing to Sofia Kenin — because Cincinnati is just around the corner next week, and sometimes, one loss is just one loss, not a searing indictment of a player.
I don’t want to bury Coric now. I’d rather wait until Cincinnati. I’d like to see how Barty does at the U.S. Open and (in truth) at the 2020 Australian Open before offering an opinion on how she is handling newfound pressure as a top-two-ranked player in the world.
The Rogers Cup might sort itself out on the coming weekend. Clarity might emerge in Canada. Yet, right now, the fear inside me and the frailty in so much of professional tennis are too pronounced to ignore.
Today’s tennis column might mean absolutely nothing tomorrow.
That possibility always exists, but the point of emphasis is that it feels more prevalent and pervasive this week at the Rogers Cup.