Montreal | Preview – Top guns back in action at WTA 1000 Canadian Open

The sport’s top guns return to action at the WTA 1000 hard court Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers, which begins on Monday in Montreal, Canada, joined by former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, now a mother of two, who starts her come-back after having retired from the tour in January 2020.

Tennis-wise, I feel like I'm doing great in practice and it's going to be just fine when I'm out there, so I'm not stressing. I'm not worried... Realistically, when you haven't been on tour and haven't played a match in so long, no matter how much you practice, how many practice sets you've done, you can never replicate being on a match court. Caroline Wozniacki

Iga Swiatek, the current World No 1 and one of only a few who have played since Wimbledon, leads the field, which includes Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, who both return for the first time since Wimbledon.

Both Sabalenka and Rybakina have been using the European summer to prepare, the Belarusian putting herself through extreme heat, while the Kazakh took a holiday in Italy before heading to Slovakia for a training block.

Meanwhile, Swiatek kept herself busy by winning the Warsaw Open ahead of her US Open title defence, and she arrived in Montreal in good humour, especially when she spotted that she shares her name with the main court at the Canadian Open, which is known as the ‘Stade IGA’ or ‘IGA Stadium.

Formerly called the Du Maurier Stadium and Uniprix Stadium, the venue was renamed to Stade IGA in 2018, after a major supermarket in Quebec.

During her pre-tournament press conference, the 22-year-old Pole joked about having a stadium named after her.

“Well, having the stadium named after me, huge privilege. Let’s pretend that’s the story. No, but it’s just a nice coincidence, so yeah, it’s fun,” Swiatek said with a grin. “I feel more happy when I see that its ‘Iga Stadium’ so it’s nice. They should do this more often.”

Only Ons Jabeur is missing in Montreal due to injury; nor will Simona Halep be present, as she is still under suspension for a failed doping test, and therefore unable to defend her title.


Top seed Iga Swiatek is delighted that the main stadium in Montreal is named IGA!

Jimmie48/WTA

The draw has not been kind, as Swiatek, Karolina Muchova, Elina Svitolina, Maria Sakkari have all landed in same top quarter.

Swiatek has been handed a tricky draw as she could face French Open runner-up Muchova from the Czech Republic in the 3rd-round, and either Ukraine’s Svitolina or Sakkari from Greece in the quarter-final.

Even the World No 1’s opening match could be a banana skin as she will face either former World No 1 Karolina Pliksova from the Czech Republic or China’s Zhu Lin in the 2nd-round and, if she comes through that, then she is projected to meet Muchova.

The Czech 14th seed, however, who lost the Roland Garros final in 3 sets to Swiatek, needs to get past Russian Anastasia Potapova in the 1st-round, while she could meet Sorana Cirstea from Romania in round 2.

Washington finalist Sakkari has an even tougher draw as she opens her campaign against either Svitolina or a qualifier, while a win will set up a meeting against 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil or Spain’s Paula Badosa, although Haddad Maia or Badosa will likely have to get past local hope Leylah Fernandez in the 2nd-round.

Should Swiatek and Sakkari make it to the quarter-final, the draw doesn’t get easier, with 4th-seed American Jessica Pegula the projected opponent.


Former World No 1 Caroline Wozniaki makes her return to competition at the WTA 1000 Canadian Open in Montreal

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Pegula, who faces compatriot Bernarda Pera or 18-year old Czech Linda Nosková in the 2nd-round, will probably have to get past another American in Madison Keys in round 3, and yet another in 6th-seeded Coco Gauff, the Washington champion, in the quarter-final.

After a first-round bye, Gauff will face either Canada’s Rebecca Marino or a qualifier, and the 19-year-old American could face Marketa Vondrousova or Wozniacki in the 3rd-round.

There are some interesting wild-cards in the second quarter, though, with Venus Williams taking on 13th seed Keys in the 1st-round, while Wozniacki, the 2010 champion, playing for the first time since coming out of retirement, kicks off her campaign against a qualifier.

Wozniacki says her competitive fire still burns bright, but, having not played for 3 years, she faces challenges on every level.

“Tennis-wise, I feel like I’m doing great in practice and it’s going to be just fine when I’m out there,” Wozniacki told reporters on Media Day. “So I’m not stressing. I’m not worried.

“It’s just about getting more and more matches in and the more I play the better I’m going to play. I hope that I’m going to be at my peak for the US Open.

“Realistically, when you haven’t been on tour and haven’t played a match in so long, no matter how much you practice, how many practice sets you’ve done, you can never replicate being on a match court.”

Drawn in the top half of the draw, the Dane faces a qualifier in the 1st-round, and a win could pit her against Wimbledon champion Vondrousova in the second.

The Czech is seeded No 9 and will open against Egypt’s Mayar Sherif.


2nd-seeded Aryna Sabalenka could snatch the No 1 ranking off Iga Swiatek if she can win the title in Montreal

Omnium Banque Nationale/Facebook

Sabalenka, the World No 2, props up the bottom half of the draw along with Rybakina, and the Australian Open champion starts her campaign against Petra Martic or a qualifier, while she is expected to meet Liudmila Samsonova in the 3rd-round before potentially taking on either 7th seeded Czech Petra Kvitova or 12th seed Belinda Bencic from Switzerland in the quarter-final.

The Belarusian has the opportunity to leave Montreal as the new World No 1, if she can win the title and Swiatek loses before the quarter-finals.

Rybakina, meanwhile, has a difficult first assignment as she faces either Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko or American Jennifer Brady in the 2nd-round, and, if the 3rd seed gets through that, then she is projected to meet 16th seed Victoria Azarenka from Belarus in the round 3.


Caroline Garcia, the 5th seed, is in the same quarter as Elina Rybakina, Daria Kasatkina and Victoria Azarenka

© Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

France’s Caroline Garcia is also in the third quarter, and the 5th seed will face Czech Marie Bouzkova or a qualifier in round 2, with 10th seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia a projected 3rd-round opponent.

There is also, as ever, the added intrigue of top Canadian talent in action, with Bianca Andreescu recently saying that she felt like 2019 again, and Leylah Fernandez arriving off the back of a great week in DC reaching the quarters where she lost to Sakkari.

Eugenie Bouchard’s hopes of joining them, though, were dashed by America’s Danielle Collins on Saturday, who beat her in 3 sets in the opening qualifying round.

While the main draw begins on Monday, qualifying over the weekend saw Britain’s Katie Boulter win through to the main draw with a fine 6-2 6-2 win over Spain’s Marina Bassols Ribera, to whom fellow Brit Jodie Burrage fell 7-5 6-4 in the opening round.


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