All the courts have been resurfaced and as of Friday in Montreal, and Saturday in Toronto, the 2019 Rogers Cup/Coupe Rogers events will be underway.
It will be the 40th edition of Coupe Rogers in Montreal – the initial year in 1980 was a women’s event (won by Martina Navratilova) to prepare for the first full-fledged tournament a year later at renovated Jarry Park, former home of the Montreal Expos baseball team.
This year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto marks the 40th anniversary of the tournament changing surfaces from clay to hard courts. In the earliest days, dating back to 1890, the event was played on grass and then clay until 1979, a year after the US Open moved to Flushing Meadows and to hard courts. That made it logical to also have Deco Turf II at the National Tennis Centre at York University leading up to the US Open.
This year there has been the disappointment of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic withdrawing from Montreal but at least that was done well in advance and Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, will now be the main superstar focus. He already has practice courts booked at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday at Stade IGA.
The absence of the two Wimbledon finalists is somewhat compensated by the presence of two emerging stars of not only Canadian tennis, but the international game – Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Auger-Aliassime will play his first match on Tuesday afternoon with tournament director Eugene Lapierre saying he hopes Shapovalov – depending on his opponent – will be featured on Monday night.
Lapierre claims there are still “a few tickets” available for Auger-Aliassime’s long-awaited debut at Stade IGA. It’s overdue because two years ago both Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov were slated to play in the afternoon session on the Tuesday but a left-wrist injury prevented Auger-Aliassime making his Coupe Rogers debut in his hometown. This time Montreal fans will be hoping he can win at least two matches and be playing on Thursday, August 8th – his 19th birthday.
Ironically, Coupe Rogers 2017 turned into the coming-out party for Shapovalov who saved four match points against No. 64-ranked Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil (scoreboard above) in the first round and went on, with wins over Juan Martin del Potro, Nadal and Adrian Mannarino, to reach the semi-finals.
As a side note – 2019 will mark the first time in history that there are three Canadian men – No. 20 Milos Raonic, No. 22 Auger-Aliassime and No. 31 Shapovalov – who are direct entries in the 56-man main draw based on their ATP rankings.
While Auger-Aliassime highlights the Tuesday afternoon session in Montreal, Bianca Andreescu will be featured Tuesday evening in Toronto. The 19-year-old will be playing her first event since the French Open when she re-aggravated a shoulder injury. It will only be her second match since retiring at the Miami Open in the round-of-16 in March. Expectations should not be too high – but it will give Canadian fans a chance to see her for the first time since her historic win at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March.
Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, the 2018 Coupe Rogers winner in Montreal, has already been slotted to play the afternoon session on Wednesday at Aviva Centre.
As with Nadal in Montreal on Friday, Serena Williams will be the superstar attraction in Toronto. She has a practice session planned for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, with Halep to follow her from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then Andreescu from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. [Note: entry to the grounds is free for qualifying and practice sessions in both Montreal (Friday – Sunday) and Toronto (Saturday – Sunday)].
Williams is in an interesting position – she’s currently ranked No. 9 and so will not be among the top-eight seeds and receive a first-round bye – meaning she will have to play on Monday or Tuesday. But if one of the top eight pulls out before Friday’s draw, then she will be seeded and not debut until Tuesday or Wednesday.
There are only three wild cards available at the women’s event and they will likely go the Genie Bouchard, emerging 16-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez from Laval, Que., and then either Rebecca Marino from Vancouver, Katherine Sebov from Toronto or Francoise Abanda from Montreal. WTA tour rules also allow for two more “Top 20” wild cards – based on being a past Grand Slam champion or world No. 1 – for the 2019 Rogers Cup. They will likely be awarded to a pair of grand dames – 32-year-old Maria Sharapova and 39-year-old Venus Williams.
The draw for the women’s event will be held – and live-streamed on Facebook – at 5 p.m. on Friday at the Hotel X in Toronto with US and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka present. The draw in Montreal, also on Friday, takes place on site and is lived streamed beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Lapierre and his Tennis Canada team in Montreal are in negotiations with various levels of government and business to have a retractable roof built over Stade IGA and hope to have something nailed down in the next few years. It would be a three-seasons roof – meaning it would not be self-contained and not require something like the climate control of Centre Court and No. 1 Court at Wimbledon or Rod Laver Arena and the other two retractable-roof stadiums at the Australian Open.
On the subject of climate control, there’s good news for fans in Toronto – this year the Sporting Life retail village will be air-conditioned.
The 2019 television coverage by Sportsnet will have Rob Faulds and Jimmy Arias in Montreal and RJ Broadhead and Tracy Austin in Toronto. For the Coupe Rogers in Montreal on TVA, it will be Paul Rivard and Marie-Eve Pelletier in Montreal with Séverine Tamborero and Frédéric Lord calling the action in Toronto.
Over the last 50 years, there have only been three title sponsors of the Canadian Open tennis tournament – Rothmans, Imperial Tobacco and Rogers. Imperial Tobacco was sponsor from 1979 until 2000 – 22 years – while Rogers is now in its 19th year of sponsorship.
Spectators at this year’s evening sessions in Toronto will be able to take the TTC home for free from the Pioneer Village station on the York University campus. In Montreal, travel on the Metro is gratis for anyone with Coupe Rogers tickets.
Montreal tournament director Lapierre, a glass-half-full kind of guy, said Sunday about the weather forecast for his event this year, “my girlfriend tells me that there’s not going to be any rain for the next 15 days.” Those words were accompanied by a hopeful, gentle laugh by Lapierre.
Fingers crossed that both Montreal and Toronto are spared any disrupting precipitation for this year’s highly-anticipated tournaments.
Sharon Fichman and Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic won the doubles title at the WTA Baltic Open in Jurmala, Latvia, on Sunday. In the final, the first-time pairing of Fichman, 28, and the 22-year-old Stojanovic defeated Jelena Ostapenko of the host country and Galina Voskoboeva of Russia 2-6, 7-6(1), [10-6].
The victory moved Fichman’s WTA doubles ranking inside the top-100 at No. 90.
On Monday she tweeted the following:
Couldn’t fit this in 140 Characters or less… pic.twitter.com/HTF9eG08zP
— Sharon Fichman (@sharon_fichman) July 30, 2019
Check out this amazing accuracy by Kei Nishikori – truly impressive.
This so ridiculously good from special K 🎾💪😎👊 I like to see a competition of this https://t.co/tVPnywvS23
— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) July 30, 2019
Juan Martin del Potro injured his right knee playing Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Queen’s Club tournament before Wimbledon. He had surgery for a fractured kneecap on June 20, a procedure that also involved removing a bone fragment. He will be out of action for the rest of 2019. Here the 30-year-old Argentine is doing a little pool rehab surrounded by some female admirers.