It’s been three years since the best women’s tennis players in the world have touched down in Toronto at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
Monday is doing its best to make up for that — in just one day.
Thirty-four Grand Slam singles titles are represented on Centre Court alone, as three-time winner here in Toronto Serena Williams plays her first hard-court match in nearly two years. Sister Venus is set for the evening session, while two-time major champ Simona Halep will open the day’s proceedings at Sobeys Stadium.
Here are four things to know ahead of day one of main draw play in our 407 ETR Morning Commute.
MONDAY MADNESS: SERENA, VENUS, LEYLAH, SIMONA… JUST TO START
Everywhere you look there is standout tennis on Monday, but let’s zoom in on Centre Court, where Simona Halep will meet Donna Vekic (11am), a hard-hitting Croatian who will be a solid test for the Romanian, a winner at this event in 2016 and 2018 in Montreal.
Halep has won both of their previous two meetings: At the US Open in 2013 and again at Indian Wells in 2017.
The legendary Serena, now 40 and playing her second event in over a year after her recent comeback at Wimbledon, gets tricky lucky loser Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain, the world No. 59.Williams, however, has looked fierce in practice in the last few days, including with her sister inside Centre Court late Friday afternoon.
Venus, 42, made her Toronto debut in 1995, two years before her Monday opponent – Jil Teichmann of Switzerland – was born. Teichmann had a magical run last year to the Cincinnati final, but has struggled recently – winless since the French Open in June.
LEYLAH LOVES BEING BACK
We couldn’t forget about Leylah Annie Fernandez – don’t you worry.
The 2021 US Open runner-up, a month shy of her 20th birthday, is back on tour for the first time since early June, when a stress fracture in her foot forced the Canadian away from the game – and even wearing a boot to quell the injury.
“My foot is 100 percent healed,” a beaming Fernandez said at Friday’s draw ceremony as the Canadian No. 1 sat alongside world No. 1 Iga Świątek. “Since Roland Garros it has been a roller coaster. The happiest moment was when I was able to take my boot off.”
Fernandez will test her level in Monday’s evening session, pitted against Storm Sanders, an Australian qualifier.
Earlier in the afternoon, American Slam champs Sloane Stephens (US Open, 2017) and Sofia Kenin (Australian Open, 2020), will also square off.
GRANDSTAND PLAYS HOST TO GRAND SLAM CHAMPS RYBAKINA, KVITOVA AND MORE
You know it’s a busy day at the National Bank Open when major champs are featured in three out of five scheduled matches on the second show court, the National Bank Grandstand.
The most recent big-time winner, Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, will look for her first win since capturing the Wimbledon title just last month, pitted against Marie Bouzkova, a qualifier.
The powerful Rybakina will have to contend with the confidence of Bouzkova, who not only won her first WTA title last week in Prague, but also has a special place in her heart for Toronto: She qualified and made the semi-finals back in 2019, only to fall to Serena. Can she remake that magic again?
2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova continues her comeback from an injury earlier this year against countrywoman and former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova in the second match on the National Bank Grandstand.
Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, another Czech star, has Alison Riske-Amritraj in the fourth match on the fan favorite court.
Katherine Sebov, a Canadian wild card, closes the day on National Bank Grandstand against feisty Yulia Putintseva.
MEDIA WHIRLWIND SEES TOP STARS MEET THE PRESS
As with years past, the media merry-go-round was back in full force in the opening weekend of the National Bank Open, with the likes of Fernandez, Swiatek, Halep, Venus, No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit, No. 3 Maria Sakkari, No. 5 Ons Jabeur, No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 9 Emma Raducanu and Canada’s own Bianca Andreescu all doing the interview rounds.
What’s the mantra that has helped Venus to seven singles majors, the world No.1 ranking and icon status in nearly three decades on tour?
“Bet on yourself,” she told us. “Because that’s your best bet.”
Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champ over Fernandez, returns to the city where she was born, sharing that her mother is excited to take her to her favorite local Chinese food stops.
Jabeur, the Wimbledon runner-up to Rybakina last month, said a trip home to Tunisia in the recent weeks has revealed she’s now so well-known she can’t go for a quiet cup of coffee. “Everyone sees me,” she shrugged.
And who is Sakkari, the Greek star, most thankful for? “My parents,” she said. “They really raised me right. I’m thankful for them.”
And with that said, it’s “Ready? Play.” on Monday in Toronto. Let main draw play begin.