Konta and Dart return in Montréal

Britain’s Harriet Dart joins Johanna Konta in the main draw of the Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers in Montréal, Canada, this week, where the top seed is Aryna Sabalenka, and defending champion Bianca Andreescu returns to competition.

I feel refreshed. I'm training very hard [and] I'm happy that my first tournament of the hard court season is in Montréal, and I hope that energy will help me. I haven’t played a lot this year because of different circumstances, which really sucked, but I have a new mindset. Bianca Andreescu

Dart came through qualifying, upsetting 2 Americans, first 8th seed Bernarda Pera, 3-6 6-4 6-3 and then Christina McHale, the 12th seed in the process.

As she also returns to the WTA Tour for the first time since Wimbledon, Dart faces home-crowd favourite Leylah Fernandez, an 18-year old wild-card, in the first round of the main draw,

Konta, too, returns to the court in what is proving a troubled year with injuries and Covid forcing her to miss both Wimbledon and the Olympics.

The British No 1 could well be in very rusty form as she is in a rematch with Zhang Shuai, who she beat in her last match, when she won the Nottingham title.

Heather Watson beat Canada’s Katherine Sebov, 6-0 6-3, in the first round of qualifying but then lost to France’s Carla Burel, 1-6 6-4 6-4.

Andreescu is on familiar ground in Montréal after her years at Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre.

“I feel refreshed. I’m training very hard [and] I’m happy that my first tournament of the hard court season is in Montréal, and I hope that energy will help me,” she said.

“I haven’t played a lot this year because of different circumstances, which really sucked, but I have a new mindset,” added the 21-year-old, who will be defending the Canadian Open women’s title she won in Toronto in 2019.

Andreescu followed that up by winning the US Open, but she suffered a knee injury at the WTA Finals later that year and the past 20 months have been marred by injuries, problems arising from  COVID, and a break from long-time coach Sylvain Bruneau.

The Canadian says she doesn’t dwell on her 2019 season because she is a different person and the circumstances are now different when 2 years ago she was the upstart and now she is the hunted as the No 2 seed in the draw.

“I do believe mental stress definitely contributes to physical stress and I do think that some of my injuries came from the mental side, but there are other things that go along with it,” said Andreescu, who has added a mental coach to her team. “I learned a lot about myself and I’m feeling better physically because I took care of the aspect.”

Andreescu parted with Bruneau earlier this year and is hoping veteran Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld can take her to the next level.

Groeneveld didn’t have much success as a player, but his coaching resumé includes working with Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Mary Pierce, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Michael Stich, Greg Rusedski, Tommy Haas and Maria Sharapova.

Andreescu has a bye in the first round and she faced either Dart or fellow Canadian Fernandez in the second round.

There are two other Canadian wild-cards in the main draw, Rebecca Marino, who faces a tough test against 14th-seeded American Madison Keys, while Carol Zhao opens against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.

As there were not enough WTA Tour players to fill the 32-woman qualifying draw, Tennis Canada used the opportunity to give some young players a chance to experience international competition.

Bianca Andreescu has not played a match since losing to Alizé Cornet at Wimbledon, and is the defending champion in Montréal

© AELTC/Simon Bruty/Pool/ AFP via Getty Images

Andreescu and Simona Halep, the 6th seed from Romania who received a wild-card into the draw, could potentially meet in the quarter-finals.

Halep is also returning after a long lay-off because of injury.

Sabalenka leads the field as the top seed, with the 3 most recent champions, Halep (2016 and 2018), Elina Svitolina (2017), and Andreescu (2019) all also seeded inside the Top 8 and who receive byes in the first round.

The top of the draw is headed by World No 3 Sabalenka, who has a challenging path facing either 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens or Dayana Yastremska from Ukraine in the second round, after which No 16 seed Madison Keys might await in the 3rd round.

An all-Belarusian quarter-final could be in the offing as No 8 seed Victoria Azarenka lingers at the other end of that section.

The second quarter contains two former World No 1 players in Czech Wimbledon finalist, No 4 seed Karolina Pliskova, and 2-time Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza from Spain, seeded No 5.

Former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia and No 12 seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, a semi-finalist at the Tokyo Olympics, could face Muguruza in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively.

Another star of the Tokyo Olympics, bronze medalist Svitolina, also from Ukraine, leads the 3rd quarter as the No 3 seed and could face either Konta or Zhang in the 2nd round, with a possible meeting with No 15 seed Coco Gauff from the US in the round of 16.

One more former National Bank Open champion, No 7 seed Petra Kvitova, is also in Svitolina’s quarter.

In the 3rd round, the 2012 champion from Czech Republic might meet No 9 seed Elise Mertens from Belgium.

Finally, in the bottom quarter lies No 2 seed Andreescu and No 6 seed Halep, as the two most recent National Bank Open champions make their returns to WTA play.

Both are coming back to action after lengthy absences – Andreescu has not played since a first-round loss to Alizé Cornet at Wimbledon, while Halep will make her first appearance on court since retiring due to a calf injury suffered against Angelique Kerber at Rome in May.

Andreescu and Halep will likely each have challenging tests before they potentially meet in the last 8, with the Canadian possibly facing No 13 seed Ons Jabeur in the 3rd round if she can get there.

Halep could face surging American Danielle Collins in the 2nd round, and No 10 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova  from Russia in the round of 16.

Pavlyuchenkova has reached the Roland Garros final and won an Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles already this season.



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