Sunday was the final day of qualifying action from the 407 ETR Family Weekend at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
There were 14 men left vying for seven spots in the main draw of the tournament that begins Monday. One Canadian remained, veteran Brayden Schnur, but he was defeated by Max Purcell.
There was a continuation of big events around the grounds today for fans to enjoy including Andy Murray’s first practice session on Centre Court, some dog therapy with an ATP player, and the highly anticipated NHL vs ATP Ball Hockey game.
Practice partnership between the pros is always an interesting dynamic. Everyone needs a good hit before competition in the main draw which begins on Monday but how much do you want to give away to the guys you’re competing against week in and week out?
Yesterday featured a rare sight at any event which is when the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds decide to hit with one another as we had with Carlos Alcaraz and defending Toronto champ Daniil Medvedev. Here’s a shot of the recent Wimbledon champ rocking a fresh haircut as he prepares for his first-ever appearance in Toronto.
When asked yesterday about how it feels to be in Toronto for the first time, Alcaraz responded enthusiastically, “I’m very happy to be here. I had my first hit with Medvedev and I [felt] the love from the people. They were screaming, “Carlitos, let’s go!” and it was my first practice and my first time here in Toronto so it was special.”
Today in practice, Medvedev was once again hitting with a Top-Ten peer in No. 6 seed Casper Ruud. Canada’s Milos Raonic continued his NBO preparations with a hit vs 15th seed Hubert Hurkacz on Centre Court.
One of the always enjoyable 407 ETR Family Day Weekend activities is the Ball Hockey challenge between ATP players and their counterparts at the NHL. Today, the hockey professionals were led by retired Toronto Maple Leafs legend Doug Gilmour who was joined by current players like Nazim Kadri of the Calgary Flames, Quinton Byfield of the LA Kings and Ryan McLeod of the Edmonton Oilers among others.
On the ATP side of things there were a few brave souls who volunteered to participate including Seb Korda, Hubert Hurkacz and Canadian Alexis Galarneau, who seemed to be the most comfortable out there with a hockey stick.
The NHL players won the game itself and then in a shootout were led once more to victory thanks in part to a sweet goal off the stick of Gilmour, who still has the ability to snipe top-shelf at the age of 60.
I spoke after the game with veteran CBC/Sportsnet hockey broadcaster Ron MacLean, who refereed the game, and he felt the ATP guys held up pretty well out there:
“I thought obviously Alexis knew what he was doing, I got him to take the opening faceoff. But all of them acquitted themselves with what you’d expect, great eye-hand coordination. I was a little worried because I was allowing high sticks…but they put on a heck of a show!
Arounds the grounds in qualifying action, Schnur's defeat put an end to any thoughts of having some home talent advance to the main draw and join Felix Auger-Aliassime, Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic.
Other notable results from Sunday include former World No. 8 Diego Schwartzman dispatching the No. 1 seed in qualifying Aleksandar Vukic 6-4, 6-4 and Australian (and Nick Kyrgios pal) Thanasi Kokkinakis winning by virtue of a 7-6(6), 6-3 result against Constant Lestienne.
The final spots in the main draw have therefore been filled and we know which qualifiers the Canadians (among others) will have to face. Auger-Aliassime draws Purcell and will try to stop the Aussie’s winning streak against his countrymen that included both Polansky and Schnur in qualies. Purcell has won the only prior career meeting between the two which came at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021.
Vasek Pospisil meanwhile lines up against Matteo Arnaldi for the first time in their career with the winner having the unenviable task of facing No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev.
So that’s a wrap for the 407 ETR Family Qualifying weekend in Toronto. I’ve honestly never seen the grounds so packed before the main draw has even begun here. What a great kick-start to the event and a real testament to the quality of tournament that the National Bank Open has become along with the strength of tennis fans here in our country!