For a tennis organization, the real suspense surrounding a tournament isn’t during the event itself but rather in the week before it begins. Just ask anyone at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
Case in point is the most recent news about Naomi Osaka, Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek, who decided to pass.
Regardless, six of the Top 10 and thirteen of the Top 20 are still in the mix, and some exciting competition is definitely in store at IGA Stadium. The tournament is the first of the WTA 1000 stops en route to the US Open.
Who better than Richard Legendre to explain how tournament director Eugène Lapierre is probably feeling right now? “In the days before the draw, you never want your phone to ring with bad news about withdrawals, but you still keep your eye on it, just in case.”
During his tenure as tournament director, Richard had to deal with his fair share of cancellations, sometimes even after he thought he was home free!
“There have always been withdrawals. My worst moment was when Serena announced she wouldn’t be coming to Montréal the day after the draw!” he recalls.
BLAME THE CALENDAR
Both the WTA and ATP have clear rules to discourage players from withdrawing from tournaments, but these things still happen.
Legendre raises the issue of the calendar, especially in an Olympic year like 2021. Montréal is the next stop after Tokyo, and the ride between the two cities isn’t exactly a quick one.
“Injuries are also a fact in tennis. They play so much. Our sport is the only one without a break and, as a result, players get injured over and over and never really heal,” he explains.
GETTING THINGS BACK ON TRACK
Even after a stint in politics before moving on to soccer and building Saputo Stadium, Richard Legendre remains attached to tennis and plans to stop by IGA Stadium next week.
He cites two good reasons—one sports-related and the other economic.
“Times have changed. There are so many high-level players that we shouldn’t be worrying about the absentees. It’ll always be a great show,” he says. “It’s also important for tennis to resume in Montréal. We haven’t seen a major tournament in two years. We need to get back on track to relaunch tennis and other big events.”
The last word goes to Claude Savard, VP of corporate partnerships at Tennis Canada: “What’s most important is that there’s a tournament this year, right?”
Indeed! So, let’s make the most of it.
WHO’LL BE THERE?
Here’s a quick look at the who’s who of the WTA at the National Bank Cup.
– World No.3 and no.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka
– 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu (who defeated Serena Williams, remember?)
– Former World No.1 and two-time champion in Montréal Simona Halep (who’s back after an injury)
– 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens
– Leylah Annie Fernandez (who was awarded a well-deserved wildcard for the main draw)