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Eugenie Bouchard eager for her next tennis transition

Eugenie Bouchard is ready for her first full year on the pro circuit.

By Melissa Boyd

Dec. 3, 2012 — Eugenie Bouchard has been on the Canadian tennis radar for almost as long as she has been swinging a racquet. Labeled early on as the potential ‘next one’ to follow in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, and Aleksandra Wozniak, Bouchard has begun carving her own path to greatness thanks to a breakout season in 2012.

The 18-year-old native of Montreal made history in July when she was crowned girls’ singles and doubles champion at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Bouchard actually won 19 consecutive matches this summer with her Wimbledon triumph sandwiched between titles at the ITF junior event in Roehampton and the $25,000 pro Challenger in Granby.

“Winning Wimbledon was a really tough tourney. It was a junior (event). I had the pressure all week. People expected me to win because I was playing women younger than me. So it was a big mental test and I was really proud that I was able to come through,” said Bouchard in an interview last week with a select group of reporters.

Many in attendance on Court 1 at SW19 were impressed with Bouchard’s poise and maturity in posting a convincing win over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final on one of the biggest stages in tennis. She put her mental toughness on display at the Rogers Cup in Montreal when she out-toughed Shahar Peer, one of the best competitors in the women’s game, to earn her first Top 50 victory.

Perhaps the most impressive stretch of Bouchard’s year came during the Fall indoor season when she put her aggressive style of play on full display, reaching the final at the Saguneay Challenger and the following week winning her first $50,000 Challenger in Toronto. Bouchard suffocated her opponents with her offense-first mentality, losing just a handful of games en route to the title in Toronto and dominating Melanie Oudin in the Saguenay semifinals. The run secured her place in the Australian Open qualifying draw which will be her first Grand Slam as a pro.

“I had great coaches when I was young and they taught me to take the ball on the rise. I think that’s it really important in the women’s game,” said Bouchard. “Of course you want to hit fast, but you want to hit it early as well … Hitting it fast takes time away from your opponent.”

With 2012 now in her rear view mirror and the tennis world at her fingertips, Bouchard is ready to make the transition to becoming a full-time WTA pro in 2013. She is fully aware of the challenges awaiting her if she wants to prove that her 2012 campaign was no fluke.

“The top players in the world have a little something extra,” said Bouchard. “They don’t make mistakes and they don’t give you any free points, you have to earn them.”

Even though her career is just getting started, Bouchard is already turning heads off the court as much as she is impressing on it. Their obvious physical likeness and similar game styles have people drawing comparisons between the Canadian and her idol Maria Sharapova. Not to mention that Bouchard was recently chosen by Sharapova to wear her line of Nike tennis clothing. She is the whole package and her bubbly personality is a hit with fans. Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement surrounding Bouchard and she knows that the onus is now on her to deliver on those expectations and send a message that the future is now.

“There is pressure from everyone around me, but I already put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Bouchard. “It’s nice to know that people think I am going to be good because that’s what I believe too, but I have to focus on what I have to do to become that player.”

Rogers Cup presented by National Bank to welcome 59 of the top 60 players in the world

Caroline Wozniacki returns to Montreal to defend her 2010 title

By Melissa Boyd

Tennis Canada has unveiled the official player acceptance lists for the 2012 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal and Toronto. This year, 59 of the Top 60 players in the world will be descending upon Canada, including both current world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and defending Rogers Cup champion Novak Djokovic. The Top 35 men of the ATP World Tour will play at Rexall Centre in Toronto from August 4-12, while 24 of the Top 25 women of the WTA will compete August 4-13 at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal.

“We are thrilled to welcome back all the best male players in the world to Toronto,” said Toronto Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale. “The depth in the men’s game makes for riveting storylines and unparalleled rivalries and we look forward to watching all the action up-close and personal when the players hit the courts in Toronto.”

“We are very pleased to announce that 24 of the Top 25 players in the world will be in Montreal this year,” said Rogers Cup Montreal tournament director Eugène Lapierre. “Our list shows that the Rogers Cup continues to be one of the most important and appreciated tournaments on the tennis calendar, one that the ladies don’t want to miss.”

Other past champions expected at the tournaments include seven-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, two-time Rogers Cup titlist Andy Murray, and former world No. 1 players Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic. Joining them will be last year’s Rogers Cup finalist and US Open champion Sam Stosur, Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and home-grown Canadian hero Milos Raonic.

“I think that Rogers Cup in both Montreal and Toronto do a tremendous job in organizing the event and it’s one of the best [Masters] 1000 events that we have in the world of tennis,” said Djokovic. “Every player enjoys playing there. I’m really looking forward to coming there and playing my best tennis.”

For the second year, the two internationally-recognized Rogers Cup events will be staged during the same week making them “virtually combined”. As with last year, all necessary elements will be in place to ensure that spectators, journalists and players are able to interact across venues.

New for 2012, both draws will consist of 48 players with the Top 16 seeds receiving first-round byes. Main draw action in Montreal will begin one day later than usual on Tuesday, August 7 with the women’s final taking place in the evening on Monday, August 13. An evening final is also scheduled in Toronto for the first time ever on Sunday, August 12 with doubles starting at 5 p.m. and singles at 7 p.m.

The draws in each city will be completed with the addition of qualifiers, tournament wildcards and Tour special exemptions. These entrants will be announced at a later date.

With the smaller draw size, qualifying weekend at both tournaments will be extremely competitive with fan favourites such as Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Marcos Baghdatis and Shahar Peer all possibilities based on their ranking to be part of the group fighting for a spot into the main draw. Entry to the grounds during qualifying is free for spectators both in Montreal and Toronto.

Tickets for Rogers Cup presented by National Bank start as low as $20. Session seats, group offers, packages and executive suite opportunities are still available. Inventory for championship weekend is limited. For more information and to purchase tickets visit rogerscup.com or call 1-877-2TENNIS (Toronto) or 1-855-TENNIS-0 (Montreal).

Kids’ tennis coming to Olympic Park in Montreal

Kids' tennis courts will be built at Olympic Park this summer

By Melissa Boyd

The Sun Life Financial Esplanade, Tennis Canada, Tennis Quebec and Tennis Montreal have announced the implementation of a unique project, as they are combining their efforts to build kids’ tennis courts at Olympic Park in Montreal where the city’s Olympic Stadium is located. The new courts will allow kids from all over the province of Quebec to learn how to play the sport with equipment adapted to their size.

“This project is unique and innovative because these permanent courts will be built from scratch according to the correct kids’ tennis sizes and not from already existing courts,” said Mr. Eugène Lapierre, Vice-President of Professional Tennis in Quebec and Tournament Director of the Rogers Cup. “It will be one of the few places in Quebec where kids will have their own courts built exclusively for them. It will be great for kids and families who are looking for an activity on the weekends and want to learn how to play tennis.”

In addition to the kids’ tennis courts, equipment rental kiosks (racquets, balls and games), resources to help the kids and organize tournaments, events and leagues will be available throughout the year.

“We are very proud to benefit from a renowned space like Olympic Park to organize tournaments and activities for our future tennis players,” said Mr. Jean-François Manibal, Director General of Tennis Quebec. “We are working together with the Sun Life Financial Esplanade to ensure we offer activities which target our young athletes.”

The location of these courts is very interesting strategically for Tennis Montreal who have very few courts in the eastern part of Montreal.

“This project will mark the first time that kids’ tennis courts have been set up in this neighbourhood,” added Mrs. Nicole Nobert, Director General of Tennis Montreal. “We will offer programming for elementary schools in the area to get more kids involved in tennis and this, in optimal conditions. Among our many projects, we will also launch a new activity for three and four-year olds called Little Tennis, something offered to kids in daycare and of course, families with young children.”

Furthermore, the participating organizations are exploring the possibility of making these new courts available year round with tennis on the snow during the winter months with appropriate equipment.

A mini Rogers Cup will be held to inaugurate the courts during qualifying weekend of the  Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal, from August 3-5. An official launch event featuring a WTA player is scheduled for August 3.

The construction of the kids’ tennis courts will begin in May and will be completed in July.

The Rogers Cup Recognized for its Green Initiatives

The Rogers Cup is committed to being green

The Rogers Cup in Montreal was recognized for its green initiatives last week at the first edition of the “Vivats” Awards which are meant to recognize the work of event organizers in the province of Quebec who have exemplary green initiatives in place.

The tournament won the Transportation and Energy Efficiency award which acknowledges an event’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its spectators and participants. The Rogers Cup was also one of three finalists nominated for the prestigious “Grand Vivat” award, the highest honor given by the Quebec Council for eco-responsible events.

Since 2007, Tennis Canada has been committed to sustainable development based on the organization’s own values including adopting a healthy lifestyle, responsible citizenship, ethics, and pride. Involved in the socioeconomic activities of its community, Tennis Canada has for a mission to promote sustainable development in sport.

Here are some of the initiatives put forth during the 2011 Rogers Cup:

  •  Attain a recovery rate of 86 percent.
  •  Free public transportation offered to all spectators and volunteers.
  •  Compensation of  133,75 tons of Greenhouse Gas Emissions related to tournament operations and player transportation, thus becoming a carbon neutral certified event by Planetair.
  • The addition of stands giving free access to matches on Court 9 to 900 people as a well as a big screen showing tournament matches for free in Jarry Park.

Furthermore, Tennis Canada has given itself a carbon neutral objective for the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and is getting closer every year. Here are the results for 2011:

  •  50 percent of spectators used public transportation at least once to come to the tournament thanks to a partnership with the STM.
  •   6,000 people used the shuttle service between downtown Montreal and Uniprix Stadium, reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 13 tons while communication and awareness activities reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions by nearly 8 tons.
  • 133,75 tons were compensated with the purchase of Gold Standard carbon credits. Tennis Canada also made the decision to compensate for all of the players in the tournament in 2011.

Montreal will host the ladies of the WTA for the 2012 edition of the tournament which will be held from August 4-13 at Uniprix Stadium. Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli, Ana Ivanovic, Na Li, Maria Sharapova, Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva have already confirmed their participation. This year, for the first time in tournament history, main draw play at the Rogers Cup will begin on Tuesday August 7 with the singles final scheduled for Monday August 13 at 7 p.m. in the evening.

A Quartet of Tennis Greats Return to Montreal for Legends Event

Legends

Andre Agassi, Pat Cash, Michael Chang and Ivan Lendl made a much-anticipated return to Montreal on Friday for a Legends Event. Playing in front of just over 8,000 fans at the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens, these tennis legends made the crowd forget about their beloved hockey team for at least one night.

Prior to the event, the four players spent the better part of two days in the cities fulfilling media commitments and giving a tennis clinic for a group of kids at a local club. Agassi appeared on a popular evening sports show called l’Antichambre and discussed a variety of topics including his book, “Open”, his foundation and the hip surgery he recently underwent. In fact, the Montreal Legends Event was his first match since the operation.

With the promotional activities completed, it was show time. The evening began with the four players being introduced on court and presented with Canadiens jerseys. Not surprisingly, Agassi was greeted with a standing ovation, he who won three Rogers Cup titles in his career and was adored by the Canadian tennis faithful.

The first match of the night pitted Cash, a late replacement for the injured Jimmy Connors, against Lendl in a rematch of the classic 1987 Wimbledon final which Cash won to claim his only Grand Slam title. Cash’s serve and volley tactics were countered by Lendl’s big serve and forehand. While they may have lost a step or two, their hands and court sense are still one of a kind. Cash was particularly entertaining, high fiving people in the audience, cracking jokes and playing the role of ball boy. Not only did the Aussie  win their pro set 8-6, he also left Montreal with a few new fans.

After an entertaining opening act, it was time for the feature match between Agassi and Chang. The compatriots met 22 times during their illustrious careers, a rivalry that was heated at times. With their relationship patched up, the two were friendly and most importantly, put on a great show. It was vintage Agassi on display. He took the ball early, hitting winners from all over the court. His cross court backhand as pure as ever and his return of serve was just as lethal as the good old days. Chang also brought out his full arsenal of tricks, a big serve, as well as lots of crafty spins and slices. Agassi posted a 7-6(3), 6-3 win, but in the end, the evening was not about the results of course, it was a chance for Montreal fans to renew acquaintances with their favourite players and for their heroes to do the same.

“Hopefully we have added to your lives over the last couple of decades, but you need to know how much you’ve been adding to ours, it is such a pleasure to play for you and to come back here,” Agassi told the crowd after his match.

Organizers announced that a tennis legends event will be held in Montreal each of the next four years including next March at the Bell Centre.

Rogers Cup: Novak Djokovic speaks

Novak Djokovic

Appearing to be quite well rested and in good humor as well, new world number one Novak Djokovic met with the press in Montreal to do some pre-tournament coverage for the Rogers Cup.

Limited by time constraints to only a few questions, it was tough to get in-depth with the Serbian star. He did briefly touch upon life as the top player in the world and his outlook on the first big summer event leading up to the U.S. Open.

Djokovic sounded quite level-headed about his new status at the top of the rankings. When asked how it might change him he replied, “Well I try not to change anything in particular, I’ve tried to keep the things very simple the way I have practiced and the way I have approached my tennis career in general up to the moment where I was number one. And from this moment was the same. So, it is true that some things change. The world is maybe treating me differently but I treat myself and my team exactly the same.”

It’s obviously too soon to really say how his new status might affect him since he has yet to play any tournaments since reaching the pinnacle of the sport. It will be very interesting to watch how he handles himself now that there is a giant target painted to his back. Even though he has been ranked in the top-three for what seems like an eternity, there’s a different twist to being above everyone else.

The scrum got a bit of a laugh when Djokovic was asked if it was difficult to stay on top. The poor guy hasn’t even had a chance to defend any points since he took the pole position from Nadal.

“That is something that I will find out,” he said with a grin, “and hopefully that I can stay as long as I can. I will try to go the distance but it’s definitely not going to be easy.”

Djokovic did not reveal too many specifics when I asked him about his post-Wimbledon celebrations but did mention that he found the time to celebrate, “in the Serbian way.” What does this actually mean? For Djokovic it meant, “A lot of fun, a lot of dancing and things like that.”

After building so much momentum over the first six months of the season, Novak talked about how the five week post-Wimbledon break might affect his progression in a season that has seen him go a remarkable 48-1. He chose to focus on the positive in his answer instead of dwelling on how it might bring him back down to earth.

“Well look, you know, I think the break came at the right time for me and for most of the top players. We’ve had an exhausting six months of the year, especially myself. I’ve played so many matches and I was very successful, I cannot complain, you know, but right now I have recharged my batteries and I am ready for the upcoming couple of months.”

With a first round bye and the forecast calling for steady rain in Montreal for the next few days, it might not be until Wednesday before we see how the time off has treated Novak’s game. He opens against the winner of Nikolay Davydenko and a qualifier.

One last bit of Novak info is that he did reveal that he will be entered in the doubles draw with fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic. There will not be a repeat of last year’s partnership with Nadal as their rivalry has truly risen to another level in 2011.

Robbie Koenig Blogs From Montreal

Andy Murray

Welcome to the U.S. hard court season! Things are spicing up very nicely as the top dogs continue to dominate here in Montreal. For the first time ever in a men’s tournament, the top eight-ranked players in the world have reached the quarterfinals. History was made in Montreal and it was good to be part of it!

Not much to report on thus far, Jason Goodall (co-commentator) and myself very much looking forward to the weekend ahead. I like Andy Murray this week for the win. He’s impressed me the most out of the top eight guys. I thought Rafa and Novak have been below par. JW’s match with Roger should be highly entertaining and beware of Davy! When the Russian is on, he can be devastating and he’s playing with renewed confidence of late!

Still no sign of the Federer twins on site this week. They are probably just chilling with Mirka back at the hotel

The tournament’s atmosphere has been ridiculously good, especially the evening sessions which have all been sold out! If you enjoy your tennis, this is a must visit event! The city is also fantastic so its a double whammy!

We’ll chat again tomorrow.
Robbie

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