The players who will be going head-to-head at the 2018 National Bank Cup have already begun their preparations on Canadian soil. Last week, eight aces—Aryna Sabalenka, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Lucie Safarova, Monica Niculescu, Monica Puig, Tatjana Maria, Christina McHale and Katie Boulter—competed in Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.
Of the six women set to play in National Bank Cup who battled through the qualifying rounds of Rogers Cup, five entered the main draw. Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, Monica Niculescu of Romania, Katie Boulter of Great Britain and Christina McHale of the US all made it through, and Olympic champion Monica Puig earned a spot after Garbine Muguruza was forced to withdraw.
Safarova went as far as the second round with a three-set win (4-6, 6-4, 7-5) over Daria Gavrilova of Australia. She then met up with Julia Goerges (10) of Germany, who stopped her in her tracks (2-6, 6-4, 6-3).
It is impossible not to mention the performances by the tournament’s first two seeds, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Aryna Sabalenka.
On the heels of her win over Christina McHale in the first round, Pavlyuchenkova made life difficult for World No.1 Simona Halep by giving her a good scare and pushing her to the limit before falling in three (7-6(9), 4-6, 7-5).
Sabalenka also did some significant damage. In the second round, she pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament when she toppled Caroline Wozniacki (2) in three sets (5-7, 6-2, 7-6(4)). Then, just two hours later, she was back on court in a clash with Elise Mertens until fatigue—and Mertens—got the better of her (2-6, 7-6(1), 6-0).
Still, the tennis world is unanimous: Sabalenka is just getting started!
Armed with wildcards, a number of Canadian players will also be in the mix at National Bank Cup.
Last week, some of our homegrown talents made headlines during the qualifying event and two came close to earning their ticket to the main draw. Rebecca Marino, who returned to competitive tennis this season, defeated No.66 Vera Lapko (3-6, 6-3, 6-3) but lost to Qiang Wang in the final round.
The other revelation of the preliminary rounds is 15-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval. She dominated Alicja Rosolska (6-3, 6-2) in her first match but was overpowered by Katie Boulter at the close of their tough confrontation (6-2, 3-6, 4-6).
Three other Canadians played in the main draw: Françoise Abanda, Eugenie Bouchard and Carol Zhao. True to form, Abanda thrilled the crowds with a great win over Kirsten Flipkens (6-3, 6-2) in the first round. In the doubles event, Bouchard went as far as the quarterfinals with partner Sloane Stephens of the US.
The players who will compete in National Bank Cup should leave Montréal with their heads held high. The competition set to get underway in Québec in just a few weeks promises to be of the highest level. Now that another fantastic edition of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank has come to an end, Tennis Canada will launch its next event: National Bank Cup presented by IGA from September 8 to 16 at the PEPS sports complex at Université Laval. The adventure continues!
*Feature photo: Patrice Lapointe