Photo : Pascal Ra
It’s been three years since Simona Halep hit a tennis ball at the WTA tournament in Montréal, way back in August 2018. Of course, she had no idea that fans at IGA Stadium would have to wait so long to host the best in women’s tennis again.
Not only does the National Bank Open presented by Rogers have a new name, it’s also happening in a new year. In the aftermath of the global pandemic, Montréal will now welcome the women in odd years and the men in the even ones.
The virtual draw ceremony will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. and broadcast on TVA Sports and the tournament’s official Facebook page. It sets up next week’s battles, as pro tennis comes back to life in Canada.
In the meantime, tune in to the qualifying rounds starting on Saturday at 11 a.m. on four courts at IGA Stadium. Of the 32 women in competition, seven are Canadian. By Sunday night, the eight survivors will take their place among the 48 in the main draw, which gets underway on Monday.
In compliance with public health measures, there will be no more than 5 000 spectators at each session. Though confined to Centre Court, fans will have the chance to see some high-quality tennis that promises to get more and more suspenseful as the week goes on, until a new champion is crowned on Sunday.
As of Monday, there will be three matches during the day sessions and two in the evenings. Only ticket holders will have the privilege of seeing the aces in action. If the third match of the day gets underway after 4 p.m., it will be played in an empty stadium, as the site is cleared and prepared to welcome the night owls.
Let’s hope our seven Canadians do as well as Bianca Andreescu did two years ago, when she raised the winner’s trophy in Toronto.
No easy task for the Canadians
Seven Canadians will be out to defend the nation in the qualifying rounds of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, which gets underway on Saturday morning at IGA Stadium.
At the outcome of the challenging two-day competition, eight aces will move on to the main draw on Monday.
As if to keep the playing field level, the seven each face a seeded player in the first round. Whether they’re feeling the pressure or in complete control, we all know that tennis is full of surprises.
On Centre Court, Raphaëlle Lacasse will be up first against Christina McHale (12) of the US. Mélodie Collard will go head-to-head against Kamilla Rakhimova (16) of Russia.
Then, Montrealer Françoise Abanda will make her first appearance since recovering from COVID-19. She faces Caroline Garcia (6) of France.
Over on Rogers Court, Kayla Cross and Océane Dodin (13) of France will play the first match, and Layne Sleeth and Anastasia Potapova (10) will compete in the last.
Finally, on Court 9, the third match of the day features the excellent Katherine Sebov versus Heather Watson (4) of Great Britain.
The tennis balls get rolling at 11:00 a.m. with spectators on Centre Court only.
The top two seeds are Alison Van Uytvanck (1) of Belgium and Kristina Mladenovic (2) of France.