The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Bianca, Simona, Serena and Naomi all eye quarter-final berths on all-play Thursday

August 8, 2019

We’re rounding the bend into the business end of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.

And the delightful thing? Most of you tennis fans out there know the quarter-final contenders by first name.

None more so – at least in the last few months here in Canada – than hometown hope Bianca Andreescu, who Wednesday afternoon pulled off a stunning comeback to book her place in the last 16, where she’ll face No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens.

While Bianca is where all eyes will be focused mid-afternoon, the day from start to finish is jam-packed with must-see tennis, as defending champion Simona Halep, three-time winner Serena Williams and mainstay names Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, Elina Svitolina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko are all in action.

There’s a reason to call it all-play Thursday.

It’s Williams who will headline the evening session against little-known Ekaterina Alexandrova, ranked No. 48 in the world. That match is to be followed by No. 2 seed Osaka going up against youngster Iga Swiatek, who clocked one of her biggest wins yet by stunning Caroline Wozniacki Wednesday evening.

Swiatek, just 18, is so new on tour that Osaka had to clarify how to say her name when speaking about her on Wednesday. But the Japanese star knows the youngster’s got game – and confidence, too.

“I know how it is to be young and fearless,” the two-time major champion said, smiling.

Halep was smiling after her escape-from-the-brink win over Jen Brady on Wednesday, and you can expect the loud-and-proud Romanian contingent to be out in force for the defending champ on Thursday when she meets Kuznetsova, herself coming back from injury in the last few months.

They play after Andreescu and Bertens meet for a first time, Bianca playing for a third consecutive day with six sets of tennis in her legs. Kiki, meanwhile, lost just three games in her Tuesday second-round after a opening-round bye. The advantage goes to the Dutch player in terms of time on court, but Andreescu is finding the kind of tennis that won her the Indian Wells crown earlier this year.

“I’m really glad with how everything is turning out,” Andreescu told reporters. “It’s nice to get back into a rhythm. I’ve been out for seven weeks, so it’s nice to win these really tough matches… that’s what I’m most proud of right now.”

Elsewhere Thursday Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty will team up in doubles, as will the top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski won her first doubles match Wednesday.

Pliskova is due to meet Anett Kontaveit, the 16th seed, in the first match on Centre Court, while it’s a battle of former champs when Bencic (2015) takes on Svitolina (2017) in the second match on Grandstand.

Ostapenko, who won the French Open last year, gets a confident qualifier in Marie Bouzkova in the final match of the day on Grandstand, the Czech player having taken out Sloane Stephens late Tuesday night.