From the moment Roger Federer announced that he would be returning to Montréal for the first time since 2011, we all knew that the 2017 Rogers Cup would be special.
Then, an 18-year-old Canadian with a wildcard erased four match points in his first outing and went on to defeat two of his idols and play in the semifinals. Denis Shapovalov was supposed to use the tournament to gain some experience but ended up making Rogers Cup history.
A total success, according to tournament director Eugène Lapierre.
“I often say that when you organize a tournament, there are two things you can’t control: the players and their results and the weather,” affirmed Lapierre just a few hours before the singles final. “You just never know. But from that perspective, everything went well. There was a really good battle between young players and veterans like Nadal and Federer. On one hand, experience prevailed. And on the other, there’s a young player in the final who has a brilliant career ahead of him. It’s a great story.”
The Federer effect, the incredible performances by Denis Shapovalov and great ticket sales leading into the tournament helped Rogers Cup surpass is 2011 attendance record by nearly 3 000 tickets. Indeed, the tournament’s new record is 216 097 people—the highest of any one-week tennis tournament.
“In 2011, there wasn’t a single drop of rain and we had the Top 8 in the quarterfinals,” Lapierre remembers. “Greg Sharko (director of media relations for the ATP Tour), who knows all the tennis stats like the back of his hand, said that had never happened before. I thought he meant that season. But it had never happened ever, anywhere. And it hasn’t happened since.”
Eugène Lapierre knows that the tournament was an exceptional one: “The week was almost perfect. We never thought we’d beat our record because, given the number of seats on Centre Court, we couldn’t reach 280 000 tickets. But to surpass the 2011 record by thousands of tickets is symbolic. It means that 2017 is our new standard.”
The tournament director is also happy to see the place that tennis has carved for itself in Montréal over time. He remembers the early days, in the 1980s, when about 98% of those in attendance were players.
“The image has completed changed,” he said. “Tennis has become a show and the tournament is much more than just a tennis tournament. It’s become an event. We elevated our tournament to a level as high as a Céline Dion show or a Montréal Canadiens match.”
More and more, people understand that there is a greater goal: “We do it because we want to develop the sport,” affirmed Lapierre. “We want as many kids as possible to pick up a racquet and get onto a tennis court to adopt a sport they will play for their entire lives. You can start at 5 years old and still play at 85. I like that feeling. And the others at Tennis Canada can attest to that. We like having the National Training Centre right here. We like having lunch with Félix [Auger-Aliassime] because we know he’s what we work for.”
And while Zverev’s win in the final marks the official end of this year’s event, Eugène Lapierre knows that Tennis Canada’s work is just beginning: “I often say that the tournament is great but it’s not an end in itself. It’s a means. Our work begins on Monday morning after the tournament. We want to further develop the sport, continue to create programs and promote tennis.”