Welcome to the Road to the National Bank Open presented by 407 ETR. Every week, we will keep you updated on all the action on the ATP Tour as we build towards the National Bank Open in Toronto, which takes place from Aug. 5 to 13.
DAYS UNTIL THE NATIONAL BANK OPEN: 41
Tennis Canada shared big news this week about the gains that will be made in women’s tennis here in our country. Starting in 2027, female tennis players will earn equal prize money to their male counterparts for their accomplishments at the National Bank Open in both Montreal and Toronto.
Beginning this summer, the WTA prize money will begin a process of increasing its value over the next few years until the 2027 installment of both events where it will reach its ultimate goal of parity between the two Tours.
In terms of specific increases, the National Bank Open’s WTA prize money is projected to rise from roughly 32% of the ATP prize money to nearly 60% by 2025, 78% in 2026 and to 100% by 2027. The total WTA prize money will be close to $10M USD beginning in 2027, which represents a 350% increase over just four years!
“Achieving equal prize money at the NBO is a crucial milestone of Tennis Canada’s plan to provide women’s tennis with more commercial opportunities,” said Valérie Tétreault, National Bank Open Tournament Director in Montréal. “We have invested time and resources into giving the women’s game the attention and place it deserves. Our 2023 marketing campaign stating that the best of women’s tennis is the best of tennis is a clear example of these efforts. We have long believed that players on the WTA Tour showcase some of the highest level of skill and athleticism we have ever seen, and with the support of National Bank and the WTA, we will soon be able to recognize that fact with equal prize money. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
This announcement continues a trend in recent years, of Tennis Canada making some monumental shifts in the way tennis treats its biggest asset – the players.
Last summer, it was the Mental Timeout Initiative that was so well received in Toronto as the stars of the WTA felt the love from fans and the tournament alike in protecting their mental well-being throughout the duration of the event. There has also been the Unmatched Gender Equity in Sports Conference for the past few editions of the tournament with big-name keynote speakers such as Billie Jean King last year and Maria Sharapova now confirmed for this summer’s installment.
With this newly implemented equalization of prize money by 2027, Tennis Canada has put their money where their mouth is and taken another big step forward towards their “Game, Set, Equity” commitment.
Not only will the players on the WTA benefit from this huge increase in prize money, but tennis fans will also reap the rewards. A 12-day tournament format is being adopted by the WTA and ATP starting in 2025, which will mean bigger draws in both Montreal and Toronto that increase from 56 to 96 player fields along with a longer tournament duration as well.
WTA players have already taken note of the prize money announcement and here in Canada, Leylah Annie Fernandez was obviously pleased with the news.
“Equal prize money has been a topic of discussion since I picked up a racquet,” the 20-year-old said. “I’m so thrilled, as an active Canadian player, to be witnessing history before my eyes and to be part of this huge moment for women around the world. To achieve parity at my home tournament and beyond is so important to me and I can’t wait to keep using my platform to open the doors to more opportunities to be treated as equal.”
While the Road to the NBO gathers steam with Aug. 7 quickly approaching, we first must navigate the Road to Wimbledon which begins on July 3. The grass court tennis season will be over in the blink of an eye, so let’s take a peak at who is gaining momentum on the men’s side of things as the lead-up tournaments continue in Europe. My colleague Paul Rivard will be taking stock of all the women’s action in his column from Montreal!
Carlos Alcaraz proved he’s just as dangerous on any surface as he captured the title at Queen’s Club and in the process reassumed the No. 1 ranking on the ATP from Novak Djokovic. Get ready for a continued back-and-forth tussle between the two stars this year when it comes to who occupies the top spot. They’ve already traded the ranking six times in 2023, which is the most we’ve seen on the ATP Tour in the first half of a season since 1983!
While Djokovic will still be the heavy favourite at Wimbledon, Alcaraz is trying his best to prove that he also belongs. At the Queen’s Club, the Spaniard only dropped one set en route to the title where he defeated Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-4 in the final and then raised perhaps the biggest trophy (in terms of size anyhow!) on the ATP. One interesting fact is that the title on grass came in only Alcaraz’s third-ever tournament on the surface as a pro!
"I have to get more experience on grass,” Alcaraz confessed after the victory. “But obviously after beating amazing guys, great players, and the level that I played, I consider myself one of the favourites or one of the players to be able to win Wimbledon."
Elsewhere, Alexander Bublik defeated Andrey Rublev in Halle, for the second title of his career. Bublik’s list of vanquished players on his way to the trophy is a very impressive list. In succession, he took out, Borna Coric, Jan-Lennard Struff, Jannik Sinner, Alexander Zverev, and then Rublev in the Finals. Three of those players had wins over Bublik so far in 2023, but none of those came on grass where the 26-year-old is clearly comfortable. Bublik will be a lower seed at Wimbledon and someone who could justifiably be placed in the “dark horse” category to have a decent run there.
Stories to Watch
A big story on the radar as Wimbledon approaches is that of recently returned and then once again injured Canadian, Milos Raonic. After a nearly two-year absence from the ATP as he overcame injuries to his Achilles and his foot, Raonic triumphantly won in his comeback match against Miomir Kecmanovic two weeks ago in the Netherlands. He fell in the second round and yet showed little signs of rust with his serve booming once more on the grass courts and more importantly perhaps, he looked as fit as we’ve ever seen him.
Regrettably, Raonic then had to withdraw ahead of his participation at Queen’s Club due to a shoulder injury. Canadian tennis fans can cross their fingers that this was just a precautionary measure because the last thing the 2016 Wimbledon finalist needs is more injury woes.
In a recent interview with Canadian sports reporter Mark Masters, Raonic said he hoped for at least one more Wimbledon appearance as well as participating later this summer at the National Bank Open in his hometown of Toronto but was hopeful that his return would last longer than that. We wish him all the best in that ambition, as his return to the ATP Tour gives a big shot in the arm to Canadian tennis.
The ATP's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 5 to 13 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!