The second day of action at the Rogers Cup was dubbed 'Neighbourhood Day' in that the residents of Villeray, St. Michel and Parc Extension could get free tickets. The tennis tournament organizers were taking care of their neighbours.
On the second day the highlights would be the second qualification match of the only remaining Canadian, Pierre-Ludovic Duclos (who ended up losing on Centre Court), James Blakes' doubles match and the three first round matches taking place. Another crowd drawer was the Top 2 ranked players practicing. Despite the fact that they do not have any matches until Tuesday the earliest, both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made appearances on the practice courts. Furthermore, one practice session was not enough for Roger Federer as he did a morning and late afternoon sessions. I guess what they say is true that practice does make perfect. Large crowds gathered around both Federer and Nadal's courts and after they were done they were mobbed for autographs. Both are true ambassadors of the game as they obliged many requests.
As opposed to the previous day the sun was blistering and there was no breeze for relief. It was especially hot on the Banque Nationale Court. Of course, that is where I decided to position myself and proceeded to watch three matches. First up was France's Sébastien Grosjean versus Stefano Ianni of Italy. This was the second qualification match for both and whoever won was going on to the main draw. The first set was a tight one that went to a tiebreak with Grosjean coming out victorious (7-6). The heat, though he should be used to it as an Italian, seemed to be too much for the very tall and lanky Ianni in the second set and he went quietly 6-1. Grosjean would be advancing to the main draw.
ATP has decided to try out holding First Round games on the first Sunday of weeklong tournaments and Montreal is the testing ground. The first one saw 35th ranked Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden against 9th ranked Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic. I was not expecting much from this match as the 35-year-old Bjorkman, though a former Top 5 player, is mainly a doubles player at this point in his career. He is a number 3 ranked doubles player. Stepanek was a Top 10 ranked player just last year, but fell off to 60th by this year. A relatively easy First Round match up like this one was just what the doctor ordered for him and it proved to be a confidence builder. Stepanek was just too strong and Bjorkman played like he was saving himself for doubles just waving at a few shots. Stepanek triumphed 6-4, 6-1 and is on to the Second Round.
The last match on the Banque Nationale Court for the day was a doubles match that saw American James Blake and Scot Jamie Murray take on Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia and his partner, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile. Three of the players (Blake, Ljubicic and Gonzalez) are well-known to the Montreal crowd so it proved to be interesting. Blake and Gonzalez were equally sharing the crowd's hearts, so both pairs were cheered. As an aside, all four players were dressed in white outfits (with Murray and Gonzalez wearing the identical Adidas outfits down to their shoes and backwards baseball caps) so it felt a little like Wimbledon. After watching two singles matches doubles is quite a change of pace. Points are short and usually furious and whomever is serving holds a distinct advantage. Breaks of serve were hard to come by in this match. With four good players taking part in the match the game was very tight with several highlight package rallies. It was so close that the match went to tiebreak after the second set with the duo of Ljubicic/Gonzalez winning finally 6-7, 6-3, 10-8. It was a fun and exciting end to another great day of tennis.
Today the First Round starts for real with plenty of interesting matches including Australian Lleyton Hewitt vs. Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, Argentinean and former Rogers Cup winner in 2002 Guillermo Canas vs. the diminutive Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, and the last match on Central Court sees Canadian Frank Dancevic go up against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina. Bon tennis!