Despite the letdown of world number five player, Venus Williams, canceling (what a surprise that the Williams sisters don't show up!) there is plenty to look forward to at the Rogers Cup Tennis tournament. Many of the top players are here, several Canadians are looking to make a splash at their home tournament and qualifiers are hoping to carry out some upsets.
The second day of the Rogers Cup Tennis tournament has become 'Family Day' with free admission for families entering the facility via the north entrance. The organizers of the tournament are consciously trying to interest a whole new generation of tennis players. There are plenty of activities aimed at the younger members of the family. On this beautiful sunny day many were taking advantage of the Fastest Serve, Mini Tennis, playing on an Airbounce game, and Bungee Jump activities. Others were strolling through the different kiosks where you could buy products or get information and samples from Reebok, Sunwing Travel, Iris, Prince, Yoplait, Glade, Uniprix, Adidas, Ellesse, RCMP, Olympus, or bid on items at a silent auction.
On this day two of the tournament many of the top ranked players were here using an 'off' day as a practice day to get used to the hardcourts at Uniprix Stadium. As I arrived at 3 p.m. I got to see some of biggest names in women's tennis practice. The top-ranked Canadian player (presently ranked number 45 in the world) Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville had just finished her practice time. But I fulfilled my desire for Canadian content by watching longtime Montreal favourite Marie-Eve Pelletier of Repentigny practice with France's Sanchez on Court 2. Hurrying over to Court 11 I was able to watch the revelation of the 2006 Rogers Cup, Laval's Stephanie Dubois, hit with her coach. She has grown up quite a bit since we last saw her in Montreal and here's to hoping she can have an equally good tournament as two years ago when she reached the third round.
On the other courts some of the big names were practicing. Some of the ranked players starting their practice were Russia's Vera Zvonareva (ranked number 14) on Court 8, Israel's Shahar Peer (ranked number 26) on Court 7, Switzerland's Patty Schnyder (ranked number 13) on Court 6, and having a private practice (no one was allowed near the cordoned off court) on Court 4 was Russia's Elena Dementieva (ranked number5). The most interesting practice with the largest crowd was taking place on Court 3 and saw Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova (ranked number 4) and Italy's Francesca Schiavone (ranked number 20) hitting together. The two very loose looking ladies starting their practice by playing a game by kicking the tennis ball back and forth over the net soccer style. Needless to say they entertained the crowd with their footwork. A typical tennis practice happened afterwards.
Before the qualifiers get into the main draw of the tournament they have to play a mini tournament in which they have to win two games to get into the main draw. This was the second day and saw players who had won their first match opposing one another. On Center Court was Austria's Monique Adamczak facing off against Croatia's Jelena Pandzic. Adamczak was definitely the physically stronger of the two hitting plenty of precise deep balls in the first set and easily won 6-0. The second set was more of a battle with Pandzic holding all of her serves and putting pressure on Adamczak. It was now a match! Adamczak finally broke Pandzic's serve to go up 5-3 in the second set. With Adamczak serving for the match, Pandzic fought hard and brought it to deuce, but succumbed 6-3.
The oddest match of the day happened between two Americans on Court 9. Ahsha Rolle faced Alexandra Stevenson. Stevenson, coming back from a shoulder injury, is the daughter of NBA star Dr. J and had gotten to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon a few years back in her first time there. She is trying to work her way back up the rankings.
Serving first Stevenson had her only easy game of the first set with a love win. Very soon after Rolle took over and forced Stevenson into many faults and double faults. Maybe this was due to some fatigue as it was Stevenson's second match of the day due to the rain on Saturday. Stevenson completely fell apart and her negative body language was apparent from the early stages. Rolle, with her baseball cap at a jaunty angle, rolled to an easy and quick 6-1 first set victory.
The second set was the complete opposite with Stevenson finding her game to fight back with a 6-2 second set. This was going three sets! Some rain clouds rolled in over Uniprix Stadium at this point. The third set was tight and went to a tiebreak with Ahsha Rolle triumphing 7-5. It was the last match of the day and an indication of the great tennis that is going to happen this week in Montreal.