Montreal (AFP)

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic rest, Rafael Nadal is the only one in charge: the Spaniard, already four-time winner in Canada, is the only headliner of the Masters 1000 Montreal that starts Monday, three weeks from the US Open.

The defending champion of the Canada Open - which alternates between Montreal and Toronto each year - will be the tournament's huge favorite in the absence of Federer and Djokovic, who have lost out after their epic Serbian Wimbledon final.

Nadal, 33, will still have cadors on his way before hoping to lift the trophy for the fifth time: the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who will be Monday 5th world at 20 years only, theoretically waiting for him at the half-time stage. Finals for a remake of last year's final, won by the Majorcan in two sets, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

And another tough opponent stands on the other side of the table: Austria's Dominic Thiem, fourth in the world, who gave the two-time king a hard time in the final of the last Roland-Garros .

Thiem, 25, is in good shape: he has just won the Kitzbühel tournament at home without losing a single set. But it was on clay and in Europe, so the adaptation to the "hard" and the North American time zones will have to take place quickly if the winner of the Masters 1000 of Indian Wells in March wishes to shine in Canada, where he never did better than a second round.

Rare statistics, the first five Masters 1000 of the season have all returned to a different player, which perhaps gives some ideas to the German Alexander Zverev, 7th world monday and winner of the Canadian tournament in 2017, the last time this last took place in Montreal.

At 22, Zverev saw a very complicated season with only one title, in the modest tournament of Geneva just before Roland-Garros.

- Murray continues his recovery -

It is therefore logically towards Nadal that the eyes are turned: the Spaniard, beaten in a big fight in the semifinals of Wimbledon by Federer, could find as soon as his entry in the running the young Australian Alex De Minaur (20 years), impressive winner of the Atlanta tournament in late July, an event in which he did not have a single break point to save.

Two other attractions will punctuate the week in Quebec.

First, the debut in front of his public of the native of Montreal Felix Auger-Aliassime, huge revelation of the season. World 22 at age 18, the Canadian would very much like to sign an epic worthy of that of his compatriot Denis Shapovalov in 2017. The long-haired southpaw had, that year, reached the semi-finals after victories over Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro. He was 18 years old.

Then, the expected presence of Andy Murray, former world number one in reconstruction after a hip operation. The Scottish doubles in doubles alongside Spain's Feliciano Lopez, with whom he won the Queen's lawn in June. Murray is aiming for a singles return for the US Open (August 26-September 9), or even the Cincinnati Masters 1000 that will follow the Montreal Masters.

Eight French are in the table, and two of them compete in the first round: Richard Gasquet and Benoit Paire. The first is clearly ahead of the game of confrontations (6 wins to one).

© 2019 AFP