Patrice Clerc, the French Open tournament director from 1984 – 2000, used to marvel at the fact that people remembered so little of the previous year’s Roland Garros except for the final.

If that’s the case as regards the 2015 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank events in Montreal and Toronto, it can only be a big positive for the tournament.

In a year when top Canadians Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard were beaten in their opening matches, and when weather threw a wrench into a few sessions extending them into the wee hours, the Novak Djokovic – Andy Murray final in Montreal and the Belinda Bencic – Simona Halep championship match in Toronto were full of compelling tennis and memorable drama.

Entering the final, Djokovic and Murray were No. 1 and No. 2 in the ATP race since the start of 2015, setting the stage for a contest of the highest order. In the past, the Djokovic – Murray match-up has been the least entertaining of all the possible Big Four head-to-head combinations. But on a hot, steamy Sunday at STADE IGA, they broke the mold of previous encounters that had often featured excessively repetitive rallies involving players who were too similar in strengths and styles.

Credit Murray with playing more out-of-the-box as he tried to end an eight-match losing streak against the Serb. That number was slightly skewed by Murray’s September 2013 back surgery. Listening to him, he spent most of 2014 regaining his fitness and his form so maybe the string of losses should actually be viewed as just four – in 2015 in the finals at the Australian Open and Miami, and the semifinals of Indian Wells and the French Open.

In the latter match in early June, the six games they played in the fourth set of a match resumed on Saturday after being postponed by darkness on Friday, showcased arguably the most exhilarating rallies of the year in terms of flat-out, red-lining from the baseline.

Sunday’s final in Montreal didn’t reach those heights consistently, but there was plenty of excitement especially in an 18-minute sixth game of the final set when Murray finally held to lead 4-2. 

Photo: Arturo Velesquez/Tennis Canada
Photo: Arturo Velesquez/Tennis Canada

“I did come up and play aggressively when I needed to,” Murray said, “especially in the third set when I was break points down. I finished a couple of points up at the net, got some free points on my first serve as well.”

“I would say the margins were so fine,” he added about the competitive nature of the match. “I think there were only six or seven points over three hours. It’s not exactly loads to pick from there. But I felt like I played as aggressively as I could today.”

The 28-year-old Scot has often been reproached for not being enterprising enough on the big occasion, so the 2015 Rogers Cup final should reinforce more stepping out of his cautious comfort zone in the future.

Djokovic suggested that an elbow issue that hampered him throughout the tournament prevented him from serving as well as he would have liked to late in the match, but he insisted, “not taking anything away from him, from his victory. He deserved it. He stepped in, played some great shots. Most of all the moments when he needed to, he served very, very well.”

The match last three hours and was played in brutal conditions. It was interesting to hear Murray make the point afterward that if he and Djokovic meet at the US Open, they might have to play two more complete sets than they did in Montreal.


Also making a splash at the 2015 Rogers Cup was Daniel Nestor. Playing in his 27th Rogers Cup/Canadian Open, he and partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin won four rounds – including upsetting No. 2 seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the second round – before losing to the top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(5), 3-6 [10-6] in the final.

Turning 43 in 17 days, Nestor showed that he is almost ageless and improved his ATP individual doubles ranking from No. 28 to No. 25. He and Roger-Vasselin are playing in Cincinnati this week and also at the US Open. What happens after that could depend on when Roger-Vasselin’s regular doubles partner Julien Benneteau (2014 Roland Garros champions) returns from injury.

For the record, Nestor has played with 11 different partners in those 27 participations, including six different partners his first six years – among them former Canadian Greg Rusedski (they lost 6-4, 6-4 to Patrick McEnroe and Pete Sampras).  


According to Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre, the fact that overall attendance dropped from just over 213,000 in 2013 to 207,355 this year was because of several days of iffy weather that discouraged people from going to the event.

That led to speculation about putting a roof over the centre court. “It would have to be a winning proposition for the tennis and for the city of Montreal,” Lapierre said. “It has to be a plus for our citizens and the return on investment must be worthwhile.”

Two Masters 1000 tournaments – Madrid and Shanghai – have retractable-roof stadiums. 

Looking at things realistically, Lapierre summed up, referring to events that have significant government and private financing, “it’s impossible to compete with rich tournaments like Indian Wells, Shanghai, Madrid and Dubai. (But) we want to establish ourselves among the leading Masters 1000s.”


Belinda Bencic was the story of Rogers Cup in Toronto, winning her second WTA title at just 18 and beating the mighty Serena Williams along the way – 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday night.

There were doubts about whether she would have the mental and physical resources to follow up that stellar display with another in the final. But she did, showing remarkable poise and maturity, she outlasted Halep 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 3-0 RET in two and a half hours when the Romanian had to stop with general fatigue and heat-related issues.

Against Williams, Bencic bounced back after a typical Williams whirlwind domination (a quick 5-1 lead) in the opening set, with solid play. As the world No. 1 came back to earth, the Swiss teenager was able to sense it, react to it and profit from it.

There were brief tantrums and angrily-swiped racquets on the court, but she never dwelled on them. Her most amazing quality, especially at her age, is the ability to put frustration behind her and immediately start over again with a clean slate.

When Williams rallied from 5-1 down to 5-4 in the deciding set, many players would have collapsed facing arguably the best women’s player of all-time. But Bencic maintained her cool and finished off the match with a brilliant backhand/forehand one-two punch on match point.


Against Halep in the final, she rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the first-set tiebreak and then started the final set strong after failing to convert a 5-3 second-set lead into a straight-sets victory.

Bencic has all the shots and mental strength to be a great champion, even if she herself insists she isn’t a natural athlete. The title in Toronto, she said, gives her the belief that she can play with the best.

Both Bencic – beating Genie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki, Sabine Lisicki, Ana Ivanovic, Williams and Halep as well as the Romanian with wins over Jelena Jankovic, Angelique Kerber, defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska and Sara Errani – advanced over class opposition to reach the final. And Halep showed gritty fighting spirit playing on after a knee problem required a first-set injury time-out and taping as well as a second-set time-out that involved having her blood pressure checked. Exhaustion and heat-related problems were a danger on a day when the city of Toronto was under a heat warning.

Unlike players much older than herself, Bencic later said she enjoyed in an atmosphere where rowdy Romanian supporters lustily cheered her opponent and often for her own unforced errors.

“Never on a tournament I saw it like this but I love it really,” she said about the loud Romanian spectators who were counter-balanced by a strong group of fans cheering for her. “It’s amazing that the atmosphere is so great even if it’s against me. I mean a lot of Romanians were here. So obviously they were cheering for her. It’s very nice from them for her, and also I mean I have to deal with it. Of course, the people are very excited. And really, I feel like it’s the right thing.

“I think some people in some other tournaments should take an example from here.”

The 18-year-old could hardly have been more charming, notwithstanding the momentary fits of petulance on the court. It’s hard to describe, but her English is also endearing – a mixture of continental and American added to her native Slovak and Swiss German.

And her youthful exuberance seems genuine. Told after winning that her No. 20 ranking would be moving up to No. 12, her response was, “twelve? No way. Wow. I didn’t know it. You count everything. So yeah, that’s pretty impressive. I cannot believe it.”

Spectators at Rogers Cup 2015 believe it and they may have witnessed the birth of a tennis superstar.

Prodigy meets prodigy


Belinda Bencic and Connor McDavid, the first pick in the 2015 NHL draft and now a member of the Edmonton Oilers, were photographed together last Friday at Rogers Cup in Toronto. It’s uncertain that Bencic, being from Switzerland, appreciates just how exceptional McDavid is, but the picture should be amusing to look at in another 10 years when both will likely have left major marks on their respective sports.

Carte postale Montreal


McGill University, much like the University of Toronto, is located on prime real estate in the middle of the city. Right on fashionable Sherbrooke Street, McGill is situated below Mount Royal (in background here), which is the centerpiece of the city’s landscape.

This view on Monday is of a woman having her lunch with the Redpath Museum being the building in the background.