Nadal eyes number one in Montreal with Murray sidelined

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Rafael Nadal says he’ll focus on the foes in front of him at the ATP Montreal Masters this week, and not on his chance to return to number one in the world.

A semi-final run in Montreal would see the Spaniard supplant Britain’s Andy Murray atop the rankings.

“I don’t even think about that now,” Nadal said of number one. “I’m trying to have the right preparation now and that’s it.

“I’m going to keep trying to play the way I did in the first part of the season, so if I’m able to make that happen, I hope to have a chance to do well.”

The top seed is expected to open his campaign for a fourth Canadian title on Wednesday with a second-round meeting against either Croatian Borna Coric or Russian lucky loser Mikhail Youzhny.

Nadal could also be on track for a third round showdown against 2009 tournament runner-up Juan Martin del Potro who beat hard-serving American John Isner in straight sets 7-5, 7-5 in a night match on Monday.

Murray is among the notable absentees from this key US Open tuneup. Novak Djokovic is taking off the rest of the season to rehab an elbow injury and US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has ended his 2017 campaign with a knee problem.

Murray is trying to recover from a nagging hip injury in time for the final Grand Slam of the season that starts later this month in Flushing Meadows.

Nadal claimed his 10th French Open title this year but bowed out in the fourth round at Wimbledon — his fifth exit before the quarter-finals in his last five appearances at the All England Club.

Roger Federer, who seized his 19th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, is also slated to open on Wednesday.

– Isner’s streak snapped –

Former US Open champion del Potro of Argentina snapped an eight-match win streak for Isner, who earned from back-to-back title in July at the Hall of Fame Open in Newport and the Atlanta Open.

Del Potro had to overcome 24 aces by 14th seeded Isner as he seeks to return to the final for the first time since losing to Murray in 2009.

Del Potro hammered nine aces, had three double faults and won 85 percent of his first serves in the one hour, 49 minute match.

Del Potro closed out the victory on his second match point by hitting a forehand winner down the line. He broke Isner at 5-5 in the second set then jumped out to a 40-0 lead in the final game.

Isner won back-to-back titles in Newport and Atlanta in July before withdrawing from last week’s tournament in Washington with a knee injury. He also pulled out of the Madrid tournament with knee trouble.

Del Potro next faces either Rogerio Dutra Silva or 18-year-old Canadian wild card Denis Shapovalov. If he wins, del Potro would likely face Nadal.

In early matches on Monday, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios romped past Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-1, 6-2 and France’s Gael Monfils shook off a slow start to beat American Steve Johnson 2-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-1.

France’s Benoit Paire also advanced, downing American Donald Young 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, but rising French star Lucas Pouille fell 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (10/8) to American Jared Donaldson.

Monfils was broken twice in a sluggish first set, but gradually found his range, firing 11 aces and saving the only other two break points he faced in the one-hour, 38-minute victory.

“At 4-3 in the second set I started putting the ball in the court. I was able to move better,” said Monfils who had his knees taped during the second set. “I was able to make it more difficult for him. From then on, I was able to get some more opportunities and I was able to make him have some doubts.”

French veteran Richard Gasquet survived an early scare from Canada’s Brayden Schnur but held on for a 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-1 win in their opening round match. – Agence France-Presse

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