Welcome to the Road to the NBO, our weekly recap of all the action on the WTA Tour ahead of the National Bank Open in Montréal from August 4 to 13.
DAYS UNTIL THE NATIONAL BANK OPEN: 20
Czech tennis shines bright
At the Grand Slam ball, the Czech guests had their Cinderella moment. But there were no glass slippers for them: they did it in tennis shoes.
Following in the footsteps of Karolina Muchova, who broke through at Roland-Garros, Marketa Vondrousova stormed the Wimbledon draw. She dropped only 2 of her 16 sets to raise the Venus Rosewater Dish when she outdid Ons Jabeur in the final (6-4, 6-4.)
In doing so, Vondrousova became the first unseeded Wimbledon finalist since Billie Jean King in 1963 (who lost to Margaret Court) and the very first to take the title.
Czechia, Europe’s smallest country with a population of 10.7 million, now has four players in the Top 20 and, more importantly, nine in the Top 100.
That’s the second-highest total in the WTA behind the US and its population of 331 million. The Americans have placed 14 players in the Top 100 (17 if you count to No.103). Still, Serena William’s successor has yet to emerge.
As of July 17, here are Czechia’s nine in the Top 100. They range in age from 18 to 33.
On March 19, I wrote about the Czech players’ extraordinary success and highlighted the major influence of their predecessor, Martina Navratilova.
At Wimbledon, Martina was front and centre in the royal box as another Czech lefty was crowned (and let’s not forget two-time champion Petra Kvitova).
When asked about Navratilova, Marketa recalled how impressive and unrivalled her record remains. “I mean, what Martina did here was crazy. I think everybody knows. It’s just amazing thing. I think it’s so, so tough to do it one time. She did it, I don’t know how many times? Nine? Yeah, I feel like you can just look up to them.” she said, adding three-time finalist and 1998 champion Jana Novotna to the list.
Stories to watch
Onto the hard courts
The race to the final Slam of the season is on.
Who of Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka or Marketa Vondrousova will close out the summer with a second 2023 major in their trophy case on September 9? Will a fourth champion assert her dominance at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and confirm that, despite the emergence of a new Big Three, there’s plenty of parity in the WTA?
By the time Wimbledon had handed out all its hardware, the tours were already switching gears.
Over the next few weeks, the women will head to Warsaw during the week of July 24 or Prague or Washington during the week of July 31 ahead of the National Bank Open.
But there are also several clay court tournaments over the next two weeks. Indeed, 5 of the next 15 events leading up to the US Open are on the dirt, including Iasi in Romania, Budapest and Palermo during the week of July 17 and Hamburg and Lausanne the week of July 24.
Closer to home, IGA Stadium is prepping for the NBO. On July 13, Tennis Canada confirmed that the WTA Top 20 and 41 of the top 44 will be in action.
Marketa Vondrousova is the first unseeded Wimbledon champion and certainly the most tattooed, from her lucky number 13 to the Olympic rings she added after she won silver in Tokyo in 2021.
After her semifinal win over Elina Svitolina (who has three tattoos herself), Marketa was asked about her ink: “For me, it’s art. I appreciate the people who do this.” She has tattoos that read “It’s OK”, “Search and you will find”, “One day at a time” and “No rain, no flowers”.
She even made a bet with her coach Jan Hernych that if she won a Slam, they’d get matching tattoos. And by the time you read this, they may already have made it permanent:
Vondrousova isn’t the only WTA player to display her body art. Before her there were Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Polona Hercog.
And there’s also Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina.
One thing’s for sure: tattoos are a clever way to get around the Wimbledon dress code. And who knows? Sponsors may start asking their athletes to go the ink route for more visibility.
The WTA's best return to Montreal this summer for the National Bank Open August 4 to 13 at IGA Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!