August 11, 2012
by: Charles Blouin-Gascon
Sometimes in a tennis match, two players are evenly matched and both will play their best. The result is a beautiful sight.
On Friday August 10 at the 2012 Rogers Cup, Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak and Christina McHale battled on Centre Court of Uniprix Stadium, and the native of Blainville, Que., was looking to reach the quarterfinal of her home country’s tournament for the first time of her career.
It could be a crowning moment for the Canadian, who earlier at the Rogers Cup had told reporters that so far, “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Wozniak was leading the American McHale 7-6 (5) and 5-2 in a tight match that was halted at 3:52 p.m., just when it looked like the No. 55-ranked Wozniak had seized control of the match. She was about to serve for the match against the American, 26th in the world, when rain started coming down.
(Because that’s another thing that sometimes happens in a tennis match–play halted by rain–and it’s not a beautiful sight.)
At 8:52 p.m., rain stopped long enough for the Centre Court to be dried off, for McHale and Wozniak to warm up and get introduced to the crowd before chair umpire Mariana Alves decided to send the players back to the dressing room. Rain has started coming down again. Play was officially called not long after, at 10:11 p.m. The match is set to resume Saturday afternoon not before 1 p.m.–so long as rain doesn’t ruin it once again.
This is the third meeting between McHale and Wozniak, who split their first two head-to-head matches–the Canadian winning this year in Charleston and the American taking their first-round match at last year’s US Open. For once, the match may not go to a third set and that’s probably because Wozniak played one of her best matches.
Down 5-3 in the first set, the 24-year-old managed to break the serve of the American when McHale was uncharacteristically unsteady from the baseline. This was key, as the two players got back on serve before Wozniak was able to take the first set at the tiebreak.
From there, her heavy and consistent groundstrokes became too much for the 20-year-old from Teaneck, NJ. Wozniak was steady and she committed very few unforced errors. In the second set, she imposed her will in jumping out to a two-break lead.
On the same day that World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the tournament, that Lucia Safarova eliminated No. 5-ranked Samantha Stosur, and the rain hijacked pretty much every other match, a little Canadian flavour in the quarterfinals might just be what the tournament needed.
For more Rogers Cup talk and quirky commentary, follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 9, 2012
by: Charles Blouin-Gascon
Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak received a tough draw at the 2012 Rogers Cup but so far, she’s responded brilliantly to both of her first two tests.
After a two-set win over Daniel Hantuchova, Wozniak was back on Centre Court on Thursday Aug. 9, 2012. The native of Blainville, Que., reached the third round of the Rogers Cup for the first time with a convincing win over No. 18-ranked Jelena Jankovic–6-2 and 6-3 in 1:31 of play.
This was a first win over the Serbian in five career meetings, and Wozniak said that, “It was about time.”
Wozniak was thrilled when she sat down with and who talked to the reporters after the match. “It couldn’t have worked out any better,” she said. “I’m very happy to be playing here, and also I am very happy with my level of tennis.”
The Canadian, currently ranked No. 55, was dominant from the beginning of the match despite a hiccup in her first service game. She had a clear game plan, and said it worked well. “I was trying to give her no rhythm,” she said, “and in fact I was trying to make her make mistakes.”
Jankovic did plenty of these, as Wozniak played some of her best tennis while Jankovic did not. Afterward, the Serbian said that, “There were a lot of things that were in my control that I didn’t do and she took advantage of that.”
While Jankovic served a higher percentage of first serves than her opponent (i.e. 58 to 53 percent), the shot wasn’t effective. She won only 23 of 41 points when she did put her first serve in play. “Nobody can rush me and do something to make the shot worse,” she said. “I tried to stay positive, and I was fighting right to the end.”
It seemed like the 27-year-old was never comfortable on the court–she did ask for an injury timeout, but later minimized the impact–and though she tried, never managed to pressure Wozniak enough.
The Canadian recognized she decided to focus strictly on herself and not so much on what her opponent did or didn’t do. “I really wanted to win today and be so focused on what I had to do and not so much on how she plays,” Wozniak said.
Though her lone title has come in the 2008 season, Wozniak says this is one of her better seasons with the highlight being her participation in the Olympic Games. “I was dreaming of representing Canada,” said Wozniak, whose confidence has grown in anticipation of tough match-ups.
“I’m happy with my game right now,” the 24-year-old said. “I have improved and I am more consistent.”
From there, the main draw opens up maybe a little bit for the Canadian, as she will be matched up against either American Christina McHale or Kazakh Galina Voskoboeva. The two were on serve in the third set when rain effectively took over the evening session.
For more Rogers Cup talk and quirky commentary, follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 6, 2012
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders which Canadian player might make it the farthest at the 2012 Rogers Cup.
Andy Murray and Serena Williams wake up covered in Olympic gold today, but let’s focus on the Women’s 2012 Rogers Cup instead.
August 5th marked the last day of the qualifying portion of the tournament, and one Canadian was still hoping to secure her spot in the women’s main draw. Indeed, 15-year-old Françoise Abanda only needed to win one last match, against Sesil Karatantcheva, before joining the other Québécoises, Aleksandra Wozniak, Eugenie Bouchard and Stéphanie Dubois, in the top 48 of the tournament. Unfortunately, she lost, 6-0 and 6-3.
Which of the three Canadians have the better chance of making it far?
Wozniak has the better resume and has enjoyed the better career thus far. The native of Blainville, Qc., is currently ranked No. 52 on the WTA Tour rankings but it’s still a far cry from her career high of No. 21 from the 2009 season–when she, notably, reached the round of 16 at Roland Garros. Wozniak has one career title, in 2008 at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, but it might have been more had she not suffered a forearm injury that forced her to precious months of inaction and recovery in 2010.
At her fourth Rogers Cup in Montreal, Wozniak hopes to make the most of the opportunity and repeat the success she’s already enjoyed here (i.e. twice making it to the third round). She’s still on a high from having experienced the Olympic Games in London, which was “a dream come true,” she says.“The atmosphere from the fans was absolutely incredible and unlike any other Grand Slam tournaments or WTA events.”
Wozniak says that, “If I had stayed longer, I might have been able to watch other competitions, but I couldn’t miss my tournament, the Rogers Cup.”
Stéphanie Dubois, meanwhile, is a player with a middling career. She’s the second highest ranked Canadian player at No. 155, which is about on par with the rest of her career. She’s good for a surprise win once in a while, and she just might pull it off this time because it’s the Rogers Cup. “I’ll take it one match at a time,” she says. “I want to focus on every match, every point, every shot.”
Eugenie Bouchard has plenty of potential, but it’s still just potential and promise, and she needs to live up to it. But as they say, that’s probably a good problem to have. She’s 18 years old and is completing what is her last, and definitely most successful, season in the juniors. She’s currently ranked No. 2 and has captured the singles and doubles titles of Wimbledon.
In Montreal, Bouchard will hang with the players who will become friends, rivals on a weekly basis next season, some of whom are also players she grew up looking up to. One of them stands out. “Maria Sharapova,” she says. The young Canadian wouldn’t mind facing her at the tournament “because that would mean that I have at least won my first-round match.”
Bouchard said that before the main draw was set and the match-ups known. It turns out that if she hopes to compete against Sharapova, both would need to reach the final round–a tall order for the young Canadian.
But the draw is different for each of the three. Wozniak will be cautious of Daniela Hantuchova right away and, should she move on, Dominka Cibulkova and Maria Sharapova looming in the next two rounds. This is called a tough draw. Dubois was luckier as she’s pitted against No. 41-ranked Chanelle Scheepers, and 14th-seeded Flavia Pennetta would be next. Meanwhile, the young Bouchard plays the strong Shahar Peer in her opening match, as Li Na awaits the winner.
And so to that earlier question, I’ll go with Aleksandra Wozniak because of her previous success at Uniprix Stadium. It’s probably the expected answer, possibly the riskiest (i.e. because of how the main draw unfolded), and quite hopefully, the right one as well–but, probably not.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
June 13, 2012
Toronto, June 13, 2012 – Tennis Canada announced Wednesday the four players nominated for selection to the Canadian Olympic Team for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Daniel Nestor (Toronto), Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver), Milos Raonic (Thornhill, Ontario) and Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, Quebec) will represent Canada in London. Raonic and Wozniak will play singles while Nestor and Pospisil will team up for doubles.
In singles, the Top 56 players in the world as of the June 11 rankings deadline receive direct entry into the tennis event provided they meet all other requirements set out for qualification. Raonic sits at No. 21 in the world while Wozniak’s third round appearance at the French Open lifted her to the exact cut-off point of No. 56. It will be the first Olympic Games for both.
“Ever since I came back after my health issues, I always said that my main goal was to play in the Olympics,” said Wozniak. “After a difficult few months last year, I’m proud to have gotten my ranking back and positioned myself to have a shot at playing in the Olympics. It would be an honour for me to represent Canada and if that were to happen, it would be for me a second dream come true.”
For the doubles event, each of the Top 10 players receives direct entry with a compatriot of their choice. As the No. 1 doubles player in the world, Nestor has elected to play with first-time Olympic hopeful Pospisil. The duo holds a 2-0 Davis Cup record, including a pivotal win against Grand Slam champions Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram during Canada’s World Group play-off versus Israel last September.
London will represent the fifth consecutive time Nestor has represented Canada at the Olympic Games. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he won gold with partner Sebastien Lareau marking the first, and only, tennis medal in Canadian history.
“I’m very proud to be in a position where I can represent my country and hopefully bring back another medal,” said Nestor. “It was quite a special feat winning Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and with the growth of tennis in our country, we all can have a chance to make Canada proud.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will announce the full official list of entries on June 28 which will include the ITF places in singles and doubles. Additional nominations for players who did not make the rankings cut-off can be submitted to the ITF to be considered for ITF places.
“Congratulations to these four tennis players on joining the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” said 2012 Team Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury. “I know you will give your everything to make Canadian fans proud in London.”
A total of six men and six women per country are allowed to participate with a maximum of four singles players, two doubles teams and two mixed doubles teams per draw. Entries for mixed doubles teams will be taken from those players already competing in singles and doubles.
The Olympic tennis event will take place from July 28-August 5 on the storied grass courts of the All England Club in Wimbledon.
Immediately following the London 2012 Olympic tennis event, all Canadian players will return to Montreal and Toronto to play Rogers Cup presented by National Bank from August 4-13. Nestor, Pospisil and Raonic will play at Rexall Centre in Toronto while Wozniak will play at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal.