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Wozniak, Fichman and Abanda to lead Canadian contingent at Saguenay National Bank Challenger

Oct 08, 2015
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada

Seven top 200 players are entered in the main draw

The players list for the 10th edition of the $50,000 Saguenay National Bank Challenger was unveiled on Thursday during a press conference at the Saguenay Indoor Tennis Club. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), will be held from October 17 to 25, 2015.

“With seven players in the top 200 as well several young, rising stars, we have an intriguing players list to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Saguenay Challenger,” said Tournament Director Richard Quirion. “Tennis fans in the area will also have the chance to watch several Canadians in action, including Aleksandra Wozniak who is returning from shoulder surgery.”

Wozniak (Blainville, QC) has been awarded a wildcard into the main draw as she continues her comeback after a shoulder injury forced her off the tour for nearly a year. The 28-year-old reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in 2009 and she will return to Saguenay for the the first time since 2007 when she was defeated in the semifinals by Germany’s Angelique Kerber. This will be the fifth tournament of her comeback and her best result to date was a quarter-final appearance at the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger in August.

For their part, Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) and Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) have earned direct entry into the main draw. Abanda, currently ranked no. 379 in the world, picked up her first top 30 victory in April when she beat Irina-Camelia Begu in Canada’s Fed Cup tie against Romania. Last year, she became the youngest Canadian since 1987 to compete in the main draw of the U.S. Open. Abanda won her first professional title in January 2014 at the $25,000 Port Saint-Lucie Challenger. The 18-year-old is making her fourth straight appearance in Saguenay and will try and improve on her run to the quarter-finals in 2012.

The 2015 season has not been an easy one for Fichman who has had to deal with several injuries. She has played in just ten tournaments this year, reaching the final in Winnipeg and the quarter-finals of the $100,000 Cagnes-Sur-Mer Challenger. In 2014, the 24-year-old enjoyed the best season of her career, achieving career-high rankings of no. 77 in singles and no. 48 in doubles. She also captured her first WTA doubles title alongside Maria Sanchez in Auckland.

Several international players will also be ones to watch in Saguenay this year. World no. 119 Romina Oprandi of Switzerland is slated to be the tournament’s top seed. The 29-year-old reached a career-high ranking of no. 32 in June 2013. Oprandi has won three Challenger titles this season in addition to reaching two other finals. At no. 2 behind Oprandi is American Jessica Pegula, ranked no. 160 in the world. She qualified for the main draw and reached the second round of the U.S. Open last month before falling to Dominika Cibulkova in three tough sets. Pegula also qualified and reached the second round of the National Bank Cup in Quebec City a few weeks ago. Former world no. 11 Shahar Peer of Israel will also be in Saguenay. Peer has won five WTA singles titles in her career and is also a two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist. Americans Catherine Bellis and Melanie Oudin have both made a name for themselves thanks to standout performances at the U.S. Open. Oudin is a former quarter-finalist in New York while Bellis upset Cibulkova in the first round last year at just 15 years of age. The reigning finalist of the Saguenay National Bank Challenger, Jovana Jaksic of Serbia, will be back in 2015 to defend her points.