Road to Rogers Cup: WTA’s best touchdown in Toronto in 10 days

Wednesday, Jul 24

Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, the regular roundup of all the action on the WTA Tour ahead of the 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank at Aviva Centre from August 3 to 11.

We’re officially on the home stretch. In just 10 days, the WTA’s biggest stars will be landing in Toronto for this year’s major Canadian stop. But which players are coming? Who’s the favourite? And what can we expect from our players north of the border?

THE STRONGEST FIELD IN ROGERS CUP HISTORY

Serena Williams at the 2015 Rogers Cup (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE)

This year’s Rogers Cup is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.

With 38 of the top 39 players confirmed, the field for 2019 is arguably the strongest we’ve ever seen in tournament history. Among the stars confirmed to play in the main draw are the reigning World No. 1 and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and a three-time winner at Rogers Cup, Serena Williams.

The 37 year old will be back in Toronto for the first time in four years. Back in 2015, during Williams’ last appearance at Rogers Cup, she suffered her second loss of the season in the semi-finals to the eventual-champion Belinda Bencic. Coming into that event, Williams had won four straight Grand Slams.

There’s no doubt about it. Williams is hungry to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24, sitting just one shy of that mark. A good run on the hard courts in Toronto might just be what she needs to generate momentum before the US Open.

The proverbial G.O.A.T. will no doubt be challenged by many contenders including the two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, former Rogers Cup champion Elina Svitolina and Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Not too mention this year’s qualifying field will be poised to score an upset (or two) given that it features the likes of former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, Wimbledon semi-finalist Barbora Strycova and former top-10 player CoCo Vandeweghe.

HALEP WINS WIMBLEDON WITH HISTORIC PERFORMANCE

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 13: Ladies’ Singles Final match during Day Twelve of The Championships – Wimbledon 2019 (Photo: Mauricio Paiz)

It was another coronation for the defending Rogers Cup champion Simona Halep.

After putting together one of the best performances ever witnessed in a Wimbledon ladies’ final, Halep received a hero’s welcome in her home country of Romania for the second year in a row.

Just over 12 months ago, the city of Bucharest threw Halep one of the biggest parties the country has ever seen. It all came on the heels of her first-ever Grand Slam title, earned on the clay of Roland-Garros.

This time around, in front of 30,000 Romanian fans, Halep displayed her newest piece of hardware – the Venus Rosewater Dish. The 27 year old managed to claim the iconic Wimbledon trophy by downing Williams in less than an hour.

In the 56-minute affair, Halep committed just three unforced errors – which is the lowest amount ever recorded in a ladies’ singles final at the All England Club. On her path to becoming Romania’s first-ever Wimbledon champion, Halep also managed to drop just one set through seven matches. The World No. 4 appears to be in fine form ahead of her title defence at Rogers Cup.

CANADIAN CONTINGENT

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 14: Ladies Doubles Final match during Day Thirteen of The Championships – Wimbledon 2019 (Photo: Maurcio Paiz)

Although Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic stole the headlines early on, it was Gabriela Dabrowski who shined brightest at the All England Club.

The 27 year old from Ottawa became the first Canadian in over 30 years to play in a Grand Slam women’s doubles final. The first since Jill Hetherington, who lost the women’s doubles title match at the 1989 Australian Open. The result was identical for Dabrowski and her playing partner Yifan Xu, but it was a significant achievement for the Canadian-Chinese duo. This result was their best finish at a Grand Slam, having improved on their semi-final showing at Wimbledon from just over a year ago.

Eugenie Bouchard also did her best at Wimbledon to move on from an abdominal injury that has plagued her since March. The Montrealer fell in the first round, but said that she was pain-free for the first time in months. She was also confident that her game was headed in the right direction, saying it was “a little too soon to go as far as I wanted, but I’ll kill it at the US Open.”

Another Canadian who will be keen on doing the same is Bianca Andreescu. The Mississauga native has been working her way back from an injury that kept her out of Wimbledon. The 19 year old is eager to return to action and is expected to be ready for Rogers Cup, where she is scheduled to play her opening round match in front of the home crowd on the night of Tuesday, August 6.

Two other players north of the border that will be vying for wild cards at this year’s Rogers Cup are Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino. The 16 year old from Laval has been impressive so far during this three-week Canadian swing. The 2019 Junior French Open champion won her first professional singles title at the Gatineau Challenger, just a day after claiming the doubles trophy with Marino.

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