Zika Concern Leaves Eugenie Bouchard Unsure of Rio Games Participation
With the Rogers Cup men’s and women’s championships around the corner, Tennis Canada took time out on Tuesday to spotlight the development programs that have allowed Canada to take its place on the international stage.
The National Bank and Tennis Canada announced a six-year renewal of their partnership, which provides valuable assistance for players, beginning with the Little Aces recruitment program for children age 6 to 8.
“National Bank has been our partner for 12 years and they have expanded their reach from a start in Quebec to a Canada-wide commitment,” said Tennis Canada vice-president Eugène Lapierre.
“With their help, we have a series of Futures and Challenger tournaments, which allow our young players to earn ranking points at home rather than being forced to go to Europe or Asia. They’ve been an ideal partner because they came to us and said ‘What can we do?’ instead of saying ‘Here’s what we want to do.’ ”
Canada’s top male player, world No. 7 Milos Raonic — who reached the singles final at Wimbledon this month — is the star graduate of Tennis Canada’s development program. Based at the National Training Centre at Uniprix Stadium, the program has also helped to develop rising court stars Denis Shapovalov — who won the boys’ singles title at Wimbledon this month — Wimbledon quarter-finalist Félix Auger-Aliassime, 15, of Montreal and Vasek Pospisil, ranked No. 98 on the ATP Tour.
National Bank is also involved as a presenting sponsor for the Rogers Cup events, which begin this weekend with qualifying action in Montreal and Toronto, and it is the title sponsor for a popular WTA event in Quebec City in September.
The women’s event at the Jarry Tennis Centre has drawn commitments from 16 of the top 18 players on the WTA Tour, including world No. 1 Serena Williams. Lapierre said he’s hoping for a strong performance from Eugenie Bouchard, the Westmount native who has dropped to No. 41 in the rankings after ending 2014 ranked No. 7 and reaching as high as No. 5.
“She’s had some good results this year,” said Lapierre. “She’s had her ups and downs, but I think she’s on the right track and we’re hoping she has a breakthrough here.”
Bouchard is scheduled to represent Canada at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, but Tennis Canada president Kelly Murumets said Bouchard has expressed concern over the Zika virus although she is listed on the updated entry list released Tuesday by the International Tennis Federation. Raonic withdrew from the Olympic team last week over a similar concern.
Bouchard is scheduled to play singles and team with Gabriela Dabrowski in the doubles event in Rio. If Bouchard withdraws, Canada will have no entries in the women’s event.
While the Rogers Cup women’s field is one of the strongest in years, the men’s competition has been hit with major defections. Swiss ace Roger Federer, ranked No. 3 in the world, and Spain’s Rafael Nadal (No. 4) announced Tuesday that they will join Scotland’s Andy Murray (No. 2) in skipping the Toronto event.
The National Bank will be distributing 500 free tickets for the Montreal event. These will be handed out during the Rogers Cup launch events Wednesday and Thursday on McGill College Ave., and also at the National Bank kiosk during the free family weekend events Saturday and Sunday at the Jarry Tennis Centre. Distribution times will be posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Former Olympians Bruny Surin and Joannie Rochette will join former Alouettes safety Étienne Boulay and Kansas City Chiefs offensive-tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in a tennis exhibition Wednesday on McGill College Ave., between Ste-Catherine St. and Maisonneuve Blvd., at noon, while WTA players will display their skills at the same location on Thursday at 5 p.m.