Expect some high-calibre tennis at the 2023 National Bank Open presented by Rogers this week.

There are nine Canadians in the qualifying and main singles draws, and for the first time in a long time, the three in the main draw will each face a qualifier at the outset.

On Friday afternoon, the NBO hosted the draw ceremony at a downtown restaurant, and everyone in attendance concurred that the star-studded field and sheer number of potential clashes were very, very exciting. 

“A week ago, we decided which Canadians would play on Centre Court on Monday and Tuesday. That was the easy part,” said tournament director Valérie Tétreault.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

“But once the draw was complete, I said to myself that things were going to get more complicated and that I’d be getting calls from players with their requests. Now I understand why Eugène Lapierre decided to leave!” she added with a laugh and a wink at her predecessor, ensconced at the back of the room, who smiled and nodded in agreement.

Bianca, Leylah, Rebecca

If our three Canadians manage to overpower their qualifier opponents, No.44 Bianca Andreescu will face No.8 Petra Kvitova (7) of Czechia; No.88 Leylah Fernandez will take on either No.13 Beatriz Haddad Maia (11) of Brazil or No.33 Paula Badosa of Spain, and No.90 Rebecca Marino will stand up to No.7 Coco Gauff (6) of the US.

Photo : Paul Rivard

Also in the mix are Grand Slam champions Caroline Wozniacki, who will encounter a qualifier, and Venus Williams, who will have to deal with Madison Keys.

High calibre for sure.

Still, colliding with a qualifier in the first round is a double-edged sword. “The qualifiers have already played two matches. They’re comfortable on the court, and they’re coming in with a lot of confidence,” explained Marie-Ève Pelletier, former member of the WTA and an analyst at TVA Sports.

Photo : Paul Rivard

While Bianca and Rebecca both said they were happy to be back in the stadium and on the courts where they first started out at the National Tennis Centre, newly crowned Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova is here for the very first time.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

After raising the Venus Rosewater Dish, she skyrocketed to World No.10 and cemented her place in Czechia’s impressive delegation of nine players in the WTA Top 100. These past few weeks, she made the most of her downtime at home, where she was able to take in her win.

“It’s an amazing feeling. There are seven Czechs in the Top 50. You can feel that everyone wants to win and the younger players are coming up behind us,” she said. But her new status as a Grand Slam champion comes with a price: “There’s also the fact that, now, all the players want to beat me. I’ve become a target!”

In her first match, Marketa Vondrousova (9) will meet up with No.31 Mayar Sherif of Egypt.

Photo: Paul Rivard

At this weekend’s qualifying event, 32 players including 6 Canadians will be vying for 8 spots in the main draw.

Eugenie Bouchard, 2014 Wimbledon finalist and the current No.223, will have to play her best tennis to defeat her rival, 2022 AO finalist and the current No.49 Danielle Collins of the US.

Photo : Getty

Leylah Fernandez’s younger sister Bianca will be tackling No.46 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine; No.144 Katherine Sebov, who was a finalist at the recent Granby National Bank Championships, will cross swords with No.59 Peyton Stearns of the US, and Carol Zhao will face off against No.85 Cristina Bucsa of Spain.

As for Marina Stakusic and Mia Kupres, the two teenagers who emerged from the pre-qualifying tournament held earlier this week, they’ll be up against No.48 Alycia Parks of the US and No.60 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, respectively.

Schedule of play – Saturday August 5