The singles draw at 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank has been touted as one of the best in recent memory. Seventeen of the top 20. The best five players in the world. Also? Serena, Venus, Bianca, Genie and Maria.
And many, many more.
But on 407 ETR Free Community Weekend, 48 players are battling for a spot in the main draw to join that elite group, which this year had a cutoff of world No.44. Imagine that: Even if you are ranked into the top 50 you aren’t guaranteed a spot in the main draw.
Enter the qualifying event, which kicked off Saturday and will continue Sunday in full force. Twelve spots are up for grabs, the winners of those 12 matches being slotted into the singles draw, which will begin on Monday morning.
It’s the ultimate challenge in tennis: Travel hundreds (or thousands!) of miles for potentially one match. If you win that one, you have to get through another. And that’s all just to play in the main draw.
On Saturday, all nine of the top seeds advanced, with only No.1 Zhang Shuai dropping a set as she beat Priscilla Hon of Australia 6-4 2-6 6-3. Recent Wimbledon quarter-finalist Alison Riske was among those winners, as was 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig. Crowd favorite Andrea Petkovic won, as well, beating Nicole Gibbs in three sets.
It was a tough day for those who didn’t have to travel as far to play at Sobeys Stadium: the Canadians. Eight home hopes were in action in round one of qualifying and none were able to clear that opening hurdle (again, showing how high it is).
Doubles Grand Slam winner Gaby Dabrowski lost in three tough sets to Anastasia Potapova, while it was Carol Zhao who fell to Riske. Carson Branstine, who made the draw via a pre-qualifying event, was beaten in two close sets to Mihaela Buzarnescu, the world No.58, 7-6(4) 6-3.
Briton Heather Watson was the last winner of the day, coming back from a set and a break down to win. Her last 24 hours showcased just how hard it can be for qualifiers: She went from the WTA event in San Jose to Toronto but was delayed 12 hours in transit Friday, landing Saturday morning on just one hour of sleep.
“I wasn’t even focused on the score today,” she said. “To come through that… I’m really pleased. I was a zombie.”
Qualifying gets underway around the grounds on Sunday from 10am.
#MariaMonday Set for Monday Evening
Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova will take to Centre Court Monday evening for her first-round match, her first appearance in Toronto since 2011. The 2009 runner-up is a wild card and meets No.16 seed Anett Kontaveit. The two have met just once before, with Sharapova winning on clay in Stuttgart in 2017.
The Monday day session also promises fireworks as 2010 champ Caroline Wozniacki will play in the afternoon. The No.15 seed takes on the always-dangerous Yulia Putintseva, who knocked out Naomi Osaka in the first round of Wimbledon last month.