The 2014 Rogers Cup is coming back to Stade Uniprix in Montreal to finish – or, better put continue – what it started.
Last year, the Rogers Cup was the start of the real Canadian buzz surrounding tennis when Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil faced off in the semi-finals. It guaranteed a Canadian in the final and shot tennis into the forefront of Canadian sports coverage.
The momentum hasn’t relented. Montreal’s own Eugenie Bouchard has taken the women’s circuit by storm. She has made the semi-finals in three straight Grand Slam tournaments and made the final of the most recent one at Wimbledon. Now, she brings a buzz back to the city that loves to celebrate their own.
Yesterday, Bouchard held a practice session in Montreal that ended with a scrimmage of sorts against fellow top-10 player in the world Victoria Azarenka. The crowd filed into National Bank court and cheered every point and gave her an ovation on and off the court.
After Bouchard left the court, so did most of the crowd even though another Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski – who won her first WTA doubles crown in Washington on Saturday – took the court in a qualifying match.
Outside, people were streaming to information desks to find their local hero. Make no mistake, Montreal has been taken over by Genie’s Army even if you don’t count the handful of Australians who started the craze making the trip.
It was fitting then, that there the scoreboard at the main entrance of the grounds advertised that the main screen in the seating area would show the Raonic-Pospisil championship match from Washington. The first time that two Canadians faced off in a final.
The Rogers Cup has settled into a Grand Slam type feel. Even though it is split between two venues – Toronto is set to host the men this year and it rotates each year – there are huge boards that show the men and women draw. In the main area, right outside of Center Court, there are two screens that show live action from both venues as well.
The top players, save Li Na and Rafael Nadal who are taking some events off due to injuries, have come. Gone are the days of multiple drop outs plaguing the tournament. The quality is there. Pospisil, for instance, will face Richard Gasquet in the first round in Toronto. That same matchup was a semi-final matchup last week.
Along with Bouchard, three other Quebec-born players will take part in the Montreal leg of the event. Aleksandra Wozniak and Francoise Abanda got wild card entries into the tournament and will lead Center Court action tonight.
Stephanie Dubois, ranked No. 296 in the world, got the Center Court treatment yesterday afternoon and earned her way into the main draw through two qualifying round wins.
It will not be easy for the less-heralded trio. Abanda faces Dominika Cibulkova, the No. 10 seed in the first match in the night session. Wozniak faces American Sloane Stephens, the No. 22 player in the world. Dubois will face Garbine Muguruza, the No. 27 player in the world.
Quebec-born players have historically had good success when the tournament has been held in Montreal. Dubois has made the Round of 16 twice at the Rogers Cup, in 2006 and 2008, both times in Montreal. Wozniak made the quarter final in 2012. Abanda is making her Rogers Cup debut after receving Sharon Fichman’s wild card spot.
Bouchard’s best appearance was a second round berth last year. She has never made the main draw in Montreal.
Action gets underway in both Montreal and Toronto today. TV coverage of both evebnt is on Sportsnet and starts at 11:00 a.m.