The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Tireless Bianca, in-form Serena shine in unexpected final 4

August 10, 2019

Toronto has been the city of dreams for so many of the best in women’s tennis over the years, and this coming weekend it will take on the same role, though whose dreams will be realized is impossible to predict.

It’s the kind of dramatic conclusion at the finish line we all want when Rogers Cup presented by National Bank comes to town.

Those aforementioned dreams are vastly different among the four semi-finalists, most notably for three-time champion Serena Williams and Toronto’s own Bianca Andreescu, who are (dare we suggest it) on a potential collision course to meet in the final.

Williams, 37, played her vintage best on Friday night under the lights at Sobeys Stadium, cracking 12 aces and winning 82 percent of her first serves against new world No.1 Naomi Osaka, whom she had lost both previous meetings against.

Serena is into an eighth (eighth!) semi-final at Rogers Cup and will meet a player who has never been this far on the WTA’s main tour, much less at an event this big. Marie Bouzkova, however, has beaten Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and Simona Halep (who retired with an injury Friday night) en route to her debut semi, and the 21-year-old Czech player has won six matches in total, counting her victories in qualifying.

She looked up to Serena growing up, and now will play her for the first time. It’s a challenge Serena has faced many, many times before: The young upstart, on a run of form, looking to upset the GOAT.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bouzkova said about facing Serena. “I’m going to try my best.”

While Williams-Bouzkova will happen Saturday night for the first time, Bianca’s match against fellow youngster Sofia Kenin of the U.S. is a third meeting – just this year.

It was Kenin who won in Acapulco in February, then Andreescu a few weeks later in Miami.

Both have played standout tennis this past week, including Andreescu, who is the first Canadian woman into the semi-finals at Rogers Cup since 1969. While she’s beaten top 10 foes in Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova, it’s Kenin who has stunned world No.1 Ashleigh Barty and 2017 champion here Elina Svitolina.

“When I step out on the court, I’m fearless and show no mercy,” Andreescu says of her run to the final four. “I’m not playing my best tennis yet… I think I’m getting my rhythm back.”

Andreescu has won all four of her matches in deciding sets, spending some nine hours on court.

No doubt all Canadian eyes will be on Bianca Saturday afternoon, but she’s not the only home hope into championship weekend: Ottawa’s Gaby Dabrowski will play her doubles semi late Saturday night with partner Xu Yifan, as they take on No.3 seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs.

There is star-power in the other doubles semi, too: Singles Grand Slam champs Victoria Azarenka and Ashleigh Barty meet top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova for a spot in Sunday’s final.