Photo: Paul Rivard

Mother Nature’s whims can thwart even the most experienced tournament organizers. 

Still, no matter the city or country, no one’s ever thrown up their hands when light rain, a heavy downpour or all-day showers start to fall.

Montréal is no exception.

And neither is the National Bank Open’s new tournament director Valérie Tétreault as she weathers the storm.

After a sunny and successful Family Weekend, Valérie and her team knew things could get cloudy, with heavy rain expected early in the week.

Before the wet weather set in on Monday, the day session got rolling at 11 a.m. on Rogers Court and the other three outer courts for the early birds in attendance.

Photo: Paul Rivard
Photo: Paul Rivard

A constant presence at IGA Stadium, Valérie Tétreault took some time out for a guest appearance on TC’s pre-match show broadcast on the giant screens for the fans waiting around in the stands and wandering from court to court.

Photo: Paul Rivard

But as the rain started coming down, reality set in. And in the afternoon, a bunch of planning meetings were tacked on to her already packed schedule.

“Late Sunday, our reaction was to have the matches on the outer courts start earlier, at 11 a.m., to get ahead of the rain and play as many matches as possible so as not to fall too far behind because we knew the rest would be complicated,” she explained.

“At 3:30 p.m. on Monday, we sat down with the WTA supervisor to draw up a plan for Tuesday and start discussing the potential scenarios. We want to remain optimistic, but we have to be realistic about what’s going to happen. We’re also in contact with a meteorologist who guides us as best he can by providing the most accurate extrapolations possible.”

After that, it was all hands on deck.

Photo: Paul Rivard

“We talked to the teams about things like ticketing and the volunteers so nobody panics,” Valérie said. “If there’s no play on Tuesday, that puts tremendous pressure on the schedule and it means the competitors will have to play two singles matches on the same day. The day session will start at 11 a.m. on all the courts, including Centre Court. That’s what happened last year when the ATP was here.”

There’s nothing worse than rain in the early days.

“You never want rain near the end of the tournament, but its easier to manage since there are fewer matches. At the start of an event, rain is far from ideal. If it rains all day, then it’s a waiting game. There isn’t much we can do about it.”

Photo: Paul Rivard

The technical resources and efficiency of the court drying squad at IGA Stadium are recognized the world over. It’s an expertise the NBO gained over its many years and one Valérie Tétreault can count on, along with her own experience from earlier tournaments with her predecessor Eugène Lapierre. So she isn’t starting from scratch.

On the topic of Eugène, he was the focus of a piece published on the tournament website almost exactly a year ago.

Rivard: Waiting game

Pride and joy

Photo: Paul Rivard

Though he’s no longer the tournament director, Eugène Lapierre remains a key figure at TC. Far from retired, he’s currently pursuing his mission to support tennis development—and build more indoor courts in Québec and Canada—and sharing his knowledge as a highly respected expert here and abroad.

He spoke to the media about his impressions of his 22 years at the helm of the NBO.

When asked what he’s most proud of, he said it’s realizing the tournament’s mission is broader than ever.

“Besides being a successful week-long show, the tournament is above all a tool for us—a tool to develop the sport. When I first joined the team, Richard Legendre, who was the tournament director, and I talked about how few Canadians made it past the first or second round. Now, thanks to the tournament and the money raised, we were able to put a solid structure in place to develop top athletes who’ve become idols and encourage more young Canadians to pick up a racquet.”

That’s how Milos, Rebecca, Vasek, Eugenie, Denis, Félix, Bianca and Leylah became our nation’s leaders in sneakers, Canada’s north stars.

Photo: Patrice Lapointe

No matter the weather

There’s one event the rain will never affect, and that’s the traditional opening night cocktail party that kicks off the NBO.

On the roof of the National Tennis Centre, wholly unaffected by the elements, special guests, partners, members of the media and politicians were on hand to celebrate the sport.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé
Photo: Paul Rivard
Photo: Paul Rivard

And celebrate Eugène Lapierre, with Sébastien LeBlanc, former pro and member of TC’s Board of Directors, Richard Legendre, former NBO tournament director, Isabelle Charest, Minister Responsible for Sports, Recreation and the Outdoors, Valérie Tétreault, NBO tournament director and TV host Sébastien Benoit all paying tribute to him.