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TEBBUTT: ROCKING MONTREAL AND TORONTO

Mauricio Paiz

The year-long tennis merry-go-round stops in Montreal and Toronto next week for the Rogers Cup events, and never before have the home folk had so much to cheer about.

Barring withdrawals, Eugenie Bouchard will be the sixth seed in Montreal, her hometown, while Milos Raonic will be No. 7 in the city near his family residence in Thornhill, Ont.

The only healthy, fit player of note not entered in the two events is women’s world No. 3 Simona Halep who chose to take time off rather than travel to Montreal.

There was some concern when Bouchard pulled out of this week’s event in Washington with a knee issue, but no one seems at all worried that she won’t be fine for a potential start next Tuesday night. Ticket sellers at Stade Uniprix are telling potential buyers that there’s a “95 per cent chance” she will play her opening match that day.

After reaching the French Open semi-finals and losing a close three-setter to Maria Sharapova in early June, Bouchard was hurting a bit. “She had played a lot of tournaments and her knees were bothering her,” coach Nick Saviano said before Wimbledon and after Bouchard’s surprising loss to Vania King in Eastbourne on grass. “She didn’t play for almost six days, didn’t pick up a racquet after the French.”

But then, everyone knows what happened when the bell rung at Wimbledon.

Mauricio Paiz

Montreal tournament director Eugenie Lapierre turned Bouchard’s withdrawal from Washington – she practiced in Montreal the day it was announced – into a positive. “For me it’s good news,” he joked.  “Now there’s certainly no way that she can get hurt in Washington. I think she played enough in the spring, and like all the top players she’s not looking to add tournaments between Wimbledon and the first big tournaments of the summer. Nadal, Federer, Sharapova, they aren’t playing tournaments…for me it’s that kind of thinking.”

At the same time, Lapierre conceded there’s virtually no chance Halep will be taking a wild card.

Probably the most successful of the four tournaments in Canada’s annual Montreal/Toronto rotation is the men’s event in Montreal. Lapierre paid about the highest compliment he could concerning ticket sales for the 2014 Coupe Rogers, boosted by Bouchard’s Wimbledon success. “We’re getting close the usual rate for the men’s tournament,” he said.

Major question marks for this year’s event will be Serena and Venus Williams, both playing in Stanford, California, this week. They are entered but Serena has only played twice in Montreal – retiring in the third set of the 2000 final against Martina Hingis and withdrawing with an injury before her first match in 2002. As for Venus, in her 20-year career, remarkably, she has never played the Montreal tournament.

“They’ve both reserved their rooms,” Lapierre said about the sisters, “and they asked to be in the same hotel. They’ve asked for a massage table. Venus has asked for a hitting partner. The mother has reserved her room. That never happened in the past.”

Below left is the field for the women’s event, on the right for the men’s. Lines through names means they have withdrawn.

PLAYER

NATION

RANKING

1. WILLIAMS, Serena

USA

1

2.  LI, Na

CHN

2

3. RADWANSKA, Agnieszka

POL

4

4. SHARAPOVA, Maria

SUI

5

5. KVITOVA, Petra

CZE

6

6. KERBER, Angelique

GER

7

7. JANKOVIC, Jelena

SRB

8

8. AZARENKA, Victoria

BLR

9

9. CIBULKOVA, Dominika

SVK

10

10. IVANOVIC, Ana

SRB

11

11. PENNETTA, Flavia

ITA

12

12. BOUCHARD, Eugenie

CAN

13

13. ERRANI, Sara

ITA

14

14. SUAREZ NAVARRO, Carla

ESP

15

15. ZVONAREVA, Vera

RUS

15 SR

16. WOZNIACKI, Caroline

DAN

16

17. STOSUR, Samantha

AUS

17

18. STEPHENS, Sloane

USA

18

19. LISICKI, Sabine

GER

19

20. PETKOVIC, Andrea

GER

20

21. VINCI, Roberta

ITA

21

22. MAKAROVA, Ekaterina

RUS

22

23. SAFAROVA, Lucie

CZE

23

24. CORNET, Alize

FRA

24

25. PAVLYUCHENKOVA, Anastasia

POL

25

26. FLIPKENS, Kristen

BEL

26

27. KUZNETSOVA, Svetlana

RUS

27

28. MUGURUZA, Garbine

ESP

28

29. CIRSTEA, Sorana

ROU

29

30. KEYS, Madison

USA

30

31. WILLIAMS, Venus

USA

31

32. KOUKALOVA, Klara

CZE

32

33. ZHANG, Shuai

CHN

33

34. HANTUCHOVA, Daniela

ESP

34

35. DELLACQUA, Casey

AUS

36

36. RYBARIKOVA, Magdalena

SVK

37

37. MEUSBURGER, Yvonne

AUT

38

38. GIORGI, Camila

ITA

39

39. OPRANDI, Romina

SUI

40 SR

40. NARA, Kurumi

JPN

41

PLAYER

NATION

RANKING

1. NADAL, Rafael

ESP

1

2.  DJOKOVIC, Novak

SRB

2

3. WAWRINKA, Stan

SUI

3

4. FEDERER, Roger

SUI

4

5. MURRAY, Andy

GBR

5

6. BERDYCH, Tomas

CZE

6

7. FERRER, David

ESP

7

8. DEL POTRO, Juan Martin

ARG

8

9. RAONIC, Milos

CAN

9

10. GULBIS, Ernests

LAT

10

11. ISNER, John

USA

11

12. NISHIKORI, Kei

JPN

12

13. DIMITROV, Grigor

BUL

13

14. GASQUET, Richard

FRA

14

15. FOGNINI, Fabio

ITA

15

16. YOUZHNY, Mikhail

RUS

16

17. TSONGA, Jo-Wilfried

FRA

17

18. ANDERSON, Kevin

RSA

18

19. DOLGOPOLOV, Alexandr

UKR

19

20. HAAS, Tommy

GER

20

21. MONFILS, Gael

FRA

21

22. ROBREDO, Tommy

ESP

22

23. BAUTISTA AGUT, Roberto

ESP

23

24. VERDASCO, Fernando

ESP

24

25. JANOWICZ, Jerzy

POL

25

26. LOPEZ, Feliciano

ESP

26

27. ALMAGRO, Nicolas

ESP

27

28. KOHLSCHREIBER, Philipp

GER

28

29. CILIC, Marin

CRO

29

30. GRANOLLERS, Marcel

ESP

30

31. TURSUNOV, Dmitry

RUS

31

32. KARLOVIC, Ivo

CRO

32

33. POSPISIL, Vasek

CAN

33

34. GARCIA-LOPEZ, Guillermo

ESP

34

35. GIRALDO, Santiago

COL

35

36. SEPPI, Andreas

ITA

36

37. DELBONIS, Federico

ARG

37

38. STEPANEK, Radek

CZE

38

39. DODIG, Ivan

CRO

39

40. MAYER, Florian

GER

40

41. SOUSA, Joao

POR

41

42. CHARDY, Jeremy

FRA

42

43. BERLOCQ, Carlos

ARG

43

44. SIMON, Gilles

FRA

44

ISTOMIN, Denis

UZB

45

HEWITT, Lleyton

AUS

48

BENNETEAU, Julien

FRA

46

LU, Yen-Hsun

TPE

47

MELZER, Jurgen

AUT

49

2013 champion Rafael Nadal – Mauricio Paiz

Interest is high in Toronto with Canada having two main draw players, Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, who get in on their rankings. That’s an historic first for the event. The two memorably met in the 2013 semi-finals in Montreal. In the picture below, they’re shaking hands after a thrilling 7-6 in the third set victory for Raonic.

Pospisil-Raonic semi-final – Mauricio Paiz

The 2014 tournament field is highlighted the Fab Four – defending champion Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

(Note: throughout this piece are five of the six handshakes Raonic had while reaching the 2013 final in Montreal versus Nadal.)

Raonic-Nadal final – Mauricio Paiz

As with Bouchard and her planned Tuesday night start in Montreal, Raonic, who is the second seed in Washington this week, is penciled in for a Wednesday evening debut in Toronto.

“This is the first time, maybe with the exception of Helen Kelesi and Carling Bassett in the 1980s, that we have players that the fans can cheer for who could actually win the tournament,” said Toronto tournament director Karl Hale.

“We have the two hottest stars on the WTA and ATP tours in Eugenie and Milos and they’ve penetrated the social fabric of the city. Everybody is talking about tennis. Everybody knows and loves Eugenie and Milos. Ticket sales are reflective of that. We’ve had record sales for the past eight weeks. And the best is still to come because we’re going to have them for another 10 years. So tennis is in a great position right now.”

Gulbis-Raonic Quarter-final – Mauricio Paiz

People in Toronto can go to Rexall Centre this coming weekend and get in gratis for the qualifying. “Our main draw cut-off is 44 and the qualifying is about 100,” Hale said, “so I like to tell people that our tournament is tougher than a Grand Slam. Players that were in Wimbledon wouldn’t even get into our qualifying. If people come out on Saturday and Sunday (August 2&3) it’s a free weekend with Pizzaville sponsoring it. You can watch these players who would be in the main draws of Grand Slams.”

del Potro-Raonic round-of-16 – Mauricio Paiz

There will be an added attraction on Sunday with a ball hockey game featuring some of the players and a few NHLers such a Jason Spezza. A surprise participant, according to Hale, will be Federer. He played in the ball hockey game in 2002 as a relative unknown and was a nifty afoot and with the stick, scoring a couple of goals. Since becoming one of the most valuable sports properties in the world, he has not wanted to risk injuring himself in a pick-up game. But this year he will be part of it – so Rexall Centre fans are in for a multi-sport treat.

Raonic-Youzhny second round – Mauricio Paiz

Rogers Cup television coverage will be on Sportsnet and RDS from Monday to Friday, on Radio-Canada from Friday to Sunday and on CBC Saturday and Sunday.

 

PLAGIARISM AT WIMBLEDON

There were shock waves in the tennis-writing community last week when it was revealed that Neil Harman, tennis correspondent for the prestigious The Times (of London), had committed plagiarism a grand total of 52 (now revised to 57) times in doing the Official Wimbledon Annual book over the past three years.

Ben Rothenberg, an American freelancer who writes for the New York Times, broke the story on Slate.com last Wednesday after painstaking research (via Google).

I was disappointed that Harman did not entirely fess up when he was originally informed about the plagiarism by Wimbledon – a.k.a. the All England Club – in the spring and shortly thereafter told some fellow-British tennis writers that, “I crossed the line a couple of times.” A total of 57 instances is hardly a couple of times, and he said nothing about plagiarizing over three years – and it may be more because Rothenberg only went back as far as the 2011 book which contained 30 plagiarized passages from high-profile publications such as The Guardian, the New York Times and Sports Illustrated.

Harman has done the book every year since 2004, but was replaced by Wimbledon for the 2014 edition.

A hail-fellow-well-met (see picture at top from Wimbledon on June 21), the 57-year-old has a quick wit and no small ego. More than a few of his peers chortled when they read the following excerpt from his book Court Confidential published in 2013: “I see my role as to report and offer (considered) support. I have a strong belief that sitting courtside – and players knowing you are there – acts as a stimulant. They may raise their game a differential notch or two. A gesture (of an appropriate kind) is acceptable. We are trained to write objectively – but that does not mean I don’t want the British players to succeed.”

(There’s a certain irony, related to this story, in the above picture of Harman. I took it for this blog during the qualifying at the 2012 Australian Open. It suddenly began popping up in several places on the internet with last week’s news about his misdeeds – without my permission or any attribution!)

Harman has been suspended by The Times pending an investigation, and he has resigned from the International Tennis Writers Association (ITWA), of which he was once the president.

It’s difficult to see him working at the US Open next month with these indiscretions so fresh in everyone’s minds. Beyond that, only time will tell if he’s given a second chance in tennis or in some other area of sports journalism.

 

FAST BREAKS

 

Here’s Andy Murray getting a cold shower while training in Miami recently.

 

After the frenzy of the clay-court and grass-court seasons, it’s nice for a player to have a relaxing break in July. Here’s Rafael Nadal with friends at home in Majorca.

Caroline Wozniacki appears to be making a not so subtle reference to the break-off of her engagement to golfer Rory McIlroy.

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