Rogers Cup Kicks Off
August 17, 2009 -- The Rogers Cup came to life today at Toronto's Rexall
Centre on the campus of York University. With Canadian fans panting in the
stifling heat, stands were a bit sparse for the late morning matches.
However, as evening rolled around and the sun settled into the western
horizon, enthusiasm built for the doubles exhibition match between
partners Monica Seles and Canada's own Aleksandra Wozniak and their
opponents Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams.
Following the match, Monica Seles was honored as she was inducted into the
2009 Rogers Cup Hall of Fame -- founded by Edward S. Rogers in 2006. Seles
won her first title here in 1995 -- her first match back from the terrible
stabbing two and a half years prior in Hamburg. She went on to defend her
Rogers Cup title for the next three years.
"You have given me many wonderful memories," she told the audience, which
sat quietly seemingly in awe of the contributions and sacrifices Seles
made to tennis.
The Rogers Cup is the next to last stop for the women in the 2009 Olympus
U. S. Open Series. Doing well in the U. S. Open Series means bonus bucks
after The U. S. Open, but only if players have been able to compete well,
remain healthy, and win with consistency -- tough terms for slamming balls
on the hot hard-courts of America, and Canada.
The top eight seeds here at The Rogers Cup use the hard court matches to
prepare for the most important tournament of the summer -- The U. S. Open.
"For us it's important to get some matches in before the U. S. Open,"
Caroline Wozniacki, the #8 seed, said. "We're getting used to the heat and
the time change. We have to plan where you want to play. I choose to play
four matches. If you do well here, though, you get the bonus. But I only
think about one match at a time."
Svetlana Kuznetsova finds planning for the U. S. Open Series a problem.
She doesn't like to be away from her Moscow home for the weeks before the
final Grand Slam of the year.
"It's not my goal to be in the U. S. Open Series, to get more prize money
because it's really hard to plan for," she said. "If I do well, it's good.
For me it's very hard to stay in the states that long and so far from
home. Yes, that's why I don't play all the matches."
Jelena Jankovic, winner of last week's Western & Southern Financial Group
Women's Open, and Flavia Pennetta are currently tied for first place in
the U. S. Open Series with 115 points.
"With or without it players want to get in as many matches as possible on
hard courts," Jankovic began. "Theses events are the best possible
preparation for the U. S. Open. And on top of that you can double the
money if you play good. I think it's great and I enjoy playing all the
tournaments. I play three before the U. S. Open."
Asked if she knew she was tied for the lead, the #6 seed said, "I hope I
can continue and do well here."
About winning the U. S. Open and the U. S. Open Series Jankovic laughed
and said, "If I do that it would be a nice bonus."
The bonus is one million U. S. dollars, if you win both the Open and the
Series. Kim Clijsters is the last woman to have done that in 2002. She was
awarded a wildcard here this week and sits in Jankovic's quarter of the
draw. Clijsters won The Rogers Cup in 2005.
Elena Dementieva, seeded 4 this week, also thinks the U. S. Open Series is
a great idea. She believes it's an incentive for players to compete.
"The biggest tournament is the U. S. Open. You don't want to play too much
before that, but you really need to play some good matches to get your
confidence and feel your game," Dementieva said. "I think it's a fine
line. You don't want to go too much. But, It's always nice to play against
top ten players just to see who is in good shape and who is not, and to
see the level of the game and get ready for New York."
Dinara Safina is the defending champion of The Rogers Cup singles title.
She is also currently ranked #1 in the world. Her presence here shows her
commitment to her game and her desire to improve it -- her goal being a
Grand Slam title. But she is not concerned about the U. S. Open Series.
Safina is only playing three of the five tournaments offered. She doesn't
want to play any more than that.
"First of all I'm not a machine," Safina said. "We are human beings and
normally we get tired. I make a schedule that fits me better but not to
get one-hundred percent better for the U. S. Open Series."
Around the courts today, Canadian qualifier Heidi El Tabakh proved worthy
of her main draw berth as she battled the surging Samantha Stosur on the
Grandstand Court. El Tabakh showed no signs of timidity against a woman
who many consider the second best server in the women's game. (Serena is
considered number one.) Tabakh's return of serve was formidable, and her
groundstrokes consistently penetrated deep in the court.
"She's not afraid. She lets her have it," one fan said, after watching a
point in the match.
Stosur, currently ranked seventeen, looked to have the second set, and
match, well in hand at 4/1. However, El Tabakh came back to force a
"It was a very close first set," El Tabakh said. "The second set was
close, too. Yeah, so I felt good out there for the most part."
Stosur won the match 76 (2) 76 (4), but the 196th ranked player had a good
week and plans to re-think her tournament schedule, playing more WTA
tournaments rather than Challenger Series tournaments. Tabakh now knows
she cam beat some of the tour players.
"I kind of proved to myself that I do belong at this level, so I think I
feel very good, very confident," El Tabakh said.
Two other players from Canada were eliminated today, too. Qualifier Yanina
Wickmayer lost to Katerina Bondarenko 76 (4) 62; and, Roberta Vinci
defeated wildcard Stephanie Dubois 61 62. However, Aleksandra Wozniak,
Canada's hope for a title, will play tomorrow. She is currently ranked #40
in the Sony Ericsson WTA ranking system.