With the doubles portion of the National Championships in the books, it's time to preview the action to come in the singles draws! With Mike Green and Corey Osborne pulling out last-minute, the draw has just been changed. While only two players have been removed, the new draw is drastically different in seeding and matchups when compared to the previous draw. Below I'll provide my usual odds for winning as well as a preview of the draw as I see it unfolding.
1:2 Vincent Gagnon (1) - With Green dropping out, Gagnon becomes the first seed and obvious favourite to win the tournament. Having not lost to another player this season, look for Gagnon to take advantage of Green's absence and secure his first national singles title.
2:1 Tim Landeryou (2) - Moving into the #2 seed is Landeryou, who has had an inconsistent season thus far. With losses to Samuel Murray in Winnipeg and Vincent Gagnon in Brossard earlier in the season, there are questions to his ability to win the tournament. Still, he typically plays his best at the nationals, beat Murray at their second meeting this season in February, and lost to Gagnon by the narrowest of margins. He still has a very good shot of winning.
5:1 Samuel Murray(3)/Coby Iwaasa (5) - With a win over Landeryou early in the season, Murray has put himself in a good position to make the national team and comes in as the third seed. His losses to Landeryou and Gagnon do cast doubts on his ability to win the tournament but with his aggressive stye and athleticism, he definitely has the game in him. Iwaasa has only three losses at selection events this season, two coming at the hands of Green and one from Landeryou. Having not played Gagnon before it is difficult to say what would happen in that matchup but Coby definitely has the ability to win, the question will be whether his inexperience and mental fortitude will allow him to do so.
10:1 Kurtis Cullen/Nathaniel Husulak/Lee Connell/Pedro Castro - While all these players have shown the ability to test the top guns in the draw, they will all have to overcome steep obstacles to make a run to the semis, let alone the final. While winning the tournament may be a long shot, these players all have the potential to cause upsets, or at the very least provide entertaining matches in the later rounds.
First Round: There are a few first round matchups that look interesting and have the potential for upsets: Hugo Laprise/Sebastien Juteau, Mitch Brayley/Tanner Mattson, and Alain Lavigne/Patrick Jauvin. Because I don't think the winners of these matches are likely to make it past the second round of competition, I'm going to focus on the later rounds.
Second Round: Things begin to get interesting in the second round. Three potential round of 16 matches have the potential for upsets, or at the very least to be extremely entertaining. Chris Exner (7) vs. Tanner Mattson (10) is the first, and while I'm not entirely convinced Chris won't win in straightforward fashion, the reality is that Tanner has the lead in their head-to-head record so I can't count him out. The second is Lee Connell (6) vs. Francis Guillemette (11). It is no secret that Francis is a great player and always dangerous in the early rounds of a tournament. Even though Connell is playing quite well this will be an early test that he will need to steel his nerves in order to pass. The last of the intriguing second round matchups is Nathaniel Husulak (8) vs. Kurtis Cullen (9), which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise, given that they are the closest two seeds in that round. With both players having similar hard hitting and aggressive styles, this will likely be the best match of the tournament before the quarter finals.
Quarter Finals: Once the quarter finals begin, most of the matches have the opportunity to be contentious. While the winner of the Cullen/Husulak match will likely provide a test for #1 seed Vincent Gagnon, it is my opinion that his court coverage and consistent play will allow him to advance to the semi-finals. The Castro/Iwaasa matchup seems to have potential on paper, but Coby has won their last two meetings handily. Still, with the hometown crowd behind him, Castro could surprise everyone, I just see it as unlikely and believe Iwaasa will book his ticket in the semis as well. The winner of the Connell/Guillemette definitely has the potential to test #3 see Samuel Murray, although if it becomes a battle I believe Connell will be fresher and more likely to win than Guillemette. The last quarter final match of Landeryou/Exner also has potential, with Exner recently winning the SK Provincial Championships and breaking into the top 10 in Canada for the first time. Landeryou's consistency should prevail though, and allow him to take the last semi-final spot.
Semis/Final: With the exception of the Iwaasa/Castro matchup, I believe it's most likely that the top seeds will all advance to the semi-finals. Both semis have the potential to be great matches, as Iwaasa/Gagnon have not faced each other in national team competition before, and Landeryou/Murray have played twice this season, splitting the matches 1-1. The safe money is still on the top two seeds to advance to the final, where we should see a great match if their contest at the same club 3 months ago is any indication. Gagnon came out on top in that match, winning a thrilling 11-9 tiebreaker. Look for both players to elevate their games with the goal of winning their first national singles title, but in my completely impartial and unbiased opinion, it's Landeryou's year ;)
To keep up with the action, check out the draws at R2Sports.