The countdown to the 2014 US Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, has started with top tennis players set to commence their hard court season at the Rodgers Cup starting today in Toronto.
Rafael Nadal is the only big name missing from the men's draw. He had pulled out of two main hard court events - Toronto and Cincinnati - because of a wrist injury. However, the Spaniard is expected to return for the US Open, where he is the defending champion.
In the absence of Nadal, who is a defending champion here as well, the draw is wide open with Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic favourites to win the tournament. Federer, in particular, will be hoping to start in fine fashion, after missing out on the Wimbledon crown.
Homehope Milos Raonic, Australian prodigy and wildcard Nick Kyrgios, David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov will also be looking to kick off their US Open preparations in style.
Raonic and Dimitrov will be hoping to carry their grass court from on to the hard court. However, none of them will feature on the opening day and will start their journeys in the coming days.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will feature on the opening day against fellow countryman Edouard Roger-Vasselin. It is an important tournament for Tsonga as he has failed to convert promising starts in past tournaments into championship wins.
Roger-Vasselin has endured a pretty inconsistent season so far. After finishing runners-up in the Chennai Open, the Frenchman failed to maintain that form. It is definitely not going to be a walk in the park for him as he is yet to beat his compatriot at the ATP circuit.
Importantly, this is Roger-Vasselin's first appearance in the Rogers Cup, while Tsonga has previous experience of playing here. Tsonga, a two-time semifinalist in Toronto (2009 and 2011), will be hoping to better his record this time.
Meanwhile, top seed Djokovic has been handed a pretty difficult draw as in the second round he could face Gael Monfils and might have to play Murray in the quarterfinal. If he manages to reach the final, he could either face Raonic or Federer.
However, the Serbian will be competing in doubles on the opening day and will pair with Swiss Wawrinka against Juan Sebastian Cabal and David Marrero. They will get some good practice in the doubles, before taking court in the singles.
Big server Marin Cilic will be up against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the opening round. Cilic has been in good form lately and also leads Istomin 4-1 in head-to-head encounters. However, the Uzbek won their most recent meeting in Sydney at the hard court this year.
Schedule of Play: First Round
Marin Cilic vs Denis Istomin starts 8:30 pm IST
Djokovic-Wawrinka vs Cabal-Marrero starts 2:30 am IST
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin starts 4:30 am IST
Where to Watch Live
The day's action is scheduled for an 8:30 pm IST (11:00 am ET, 4:00 pm BST and 3:00 pm GMT) start with live coverage on Star Sports in India and live streaming option HERE. Rogers Cup will also be streamed live HERE and HERE or catch the live updates HERE.
Sportsnet will telecast the matches live in Canada with live streaming option HERE or listen to the action live online HERE. ESPN 2 will telecast the matches live in the United States with an online streaming option HERE. In South Africa and sub-Sahara region the tournament will be available live on Super Sport with live online viewing option HERE.