Photo : Mike McIntyre
The return of professional tennis to Toronto was a smashing success this past week as tennis fans swarmed to Sobeys Stadium for a chance to experience a fully operational and accessible National Bank Open for the first time in three years.
At the conclusion of the event, tournament director Karl Hale said in his recap, “As you all have seen we’ve had an amazing, outstanding, record-breaking event. We had fourteen Grand Slam champions, seven number ones, Serena retiring with a sellout night Wednesday and a spectacular week of tennis from our Canadians with Bianca and Leylah back on court.”
In terms of numbers, while Karl didn’t have the final tallies quite yet while speaking prior to the women’s final, he said that “Our record is 138,000 and we’re going to surpass that today. It was our strongest week of selling on the men’s or women’s tour, the future looks really bright for tennis here.” I joked with Karl that he’ll have to see if he can convince Roger Federer to announce his retirement at the event here next summer!
The championship trophy, meanwhile, was claimed this year by a resurgent Simona Halep who built upon her previous success in Canada with a victory over surprise finalist Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Halep had twice won the event before in Montreal in 2016 and 2018 and had also made the finals in Toronto in 2015. The atmosphere today was similar to a Billie Jean King Cup international event, with boisterous Romanian and Brazilian fans cheering on their players. It was one of the better finals I can recall watching here in recent years and both Halep and Haddad Maia said they loved the support.
Match of the Tournament
The buzz on court on Wednesday night was electric and the crowd was a sell-out for Serena Williams in her final match in Canada before she retires. Despite Belinda Bencic walking away with the 6-2, 6-4 victory, the crowd was fully behind the American tennis legend.
In an emotional speech to the crowd afterwards, Serena said, “You know, I’ve always had some amazing times here, both on and off the court. I’ll be coming back just as a visitor to this city. But otherwise, it’s been remarkable. I was really happy to be out here today and play in front of you guys. And thanks for the support.”
Gaby Dabrowski proved, as she often does, to be the most consistent of the Canadians. While she wasn’t able to defend her title from Montreal a year ago, the Ottawa native did make it to the semifinals along with partner Giuliana Olmos. Dabrowski will be a top seed at the upcoming US Open where she’ll definitely be right in the mix for both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles titles.
For Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Annie Fernandez, there are plenty of positives to take as well from the week in Toronto. Andreescu was a major ambassador for the launch of Tennis Canada’s Mental Timeout initiative aimed at helping players manage the demands of the sport while on site. She beat 11th seed Daria Kasatkina and a very tricky Alize Cornet before falling to rising star Qinwen Zheng.
Fernandez, meanwhile, just returned to the WTA following a two-month injury absence with a fractured foot. Seeing her able to play a couple of matches in both singles and doubles (with her sister Bianca Jolie) without any pain or discomfort was a big win in its own right. At only 19 years old, Leylah Annie will be a player to reckon with for years to come.
Co-hosting Match Point Canada, the official podcast of Tennis Canada with daily episodes all week in Toronto, proved once again to be an enormous success. Along with my colleague Ben Lewis, we had exclusive one on one interviews with the likes of Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu and of course tournament champion Simona Halep.
Our podcast returns now to weekly episodes that drop every Monday morning with some of the greatest tennis players and personalities that the sport has to offer. We hope you include us in your weekly podcast lineup!
The Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati is the last major tune-up prior to the US Open at the end of the month. Can World No. 1 Iga Świątek get back to the level she displayed earlier this year when she won 37 consecutive matches? Is Simona Halep now the player to beat as she returns to the top 10? Or will we see someone like a Beatriz Haddad Maia step-up and make the world take notice?
Enjoy the lead-up to the last major of 2022 everyone and thanks for following and supporting all the action this year at the National Bank Open.
From the Archives
The National Bank Open trophy has gone through several versions over the years. Here are a few that you might recall from previous instalments of the event!