Originally written on In The Neutral Zone  |  Last updated 11/20/14
  I always look forward to the first week of August because I know not only have we entered the final stretch of tennis before the US Open but it means I get to watch it in person. Since 2006, I’ve attended the Toronto event in some capacity* and witnessed firsthand the rise and fall of players who have their eyes set on doing damage in New York. This edition had some key withdrawals (Sharapova and Azarenka) but enough storylines to keep most interested. I’ll cover three big stories that I feel Toronto helped illuminate this year: No worries for Serena It should come as no surprise that Serena was barely challenged during her run at the Rogers Cup. For those expecting a letdown after her early Wimbledon loss, got to see how undeterred Serena seemed to be by that minor blip in an otherwise great year. Her eighth title (tying a career high) comes with over two months left in the year and with little doubt that she will win more. Plus, it’s always refreshing to see a Serena who is enjoying herself every time she takes the court. This week, she again talked about her desire to play for as long as she can and how she really enjoyed how she felt right now. It certainly helps that she has talked about how much she enjoys playing in Toronto where she can be near good friends. Sorana’s People One of the charms of Toronto is that the entire world has carved out a piece of the city. So, it was no real surprise that Romanians rallied behind Sorana Cirstea this week but it was telling that almost everyone else did to by the end of the week. Cirstea was the co-star this week after her thrilling win over Caroline Wozniacki and other big wins against Kvitova and Na. I really was impressed seeing her in person for the first time and know that those big wins were well deserved. She played like a more polished version of the 2008 Ana Ivanovic (a friend of hers) with the same power but a better mental approach. The result here helps her rise into the Top 20 and become a player who could be a threat in any side of the US Open bracket she is put in. Aga tough on every court Despite her diminutive stature, Agnieszka Radwanska is a tough opponent on any surface. She was the only one to hold her own against Serena (losing 6 and 4). The results are a testament to the variety and tactical execution in Aga’s game. She may have squandered the best shot she has had at a Grand Slam when she lost in the Wimbledon semis but I strongly believe she has the staying power to be competitive again. I’ll be back on Thursday to talk about some early results and returns in Cincinnati. (*Note: I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity with Tennis Canada since 2010) For more check out A man and his racquet blog and the YouTube page.  
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