Tennis

4 Takeaways for Canadians and Wimbledon Champs heading into the National Bank Open

Our third grand slam of the tennis season is now in the books as two weeks have passed from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club. 

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic added additional hardware to his overflowing mantle, a new champion emerged in Elena Rybakina, and the summer hard court swing is right around the corner, as players prepare for a major stop upcoming at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Toronto and Montréal. 

Here are four takeaways from Wimbledon 2022: 

1. Novak Djokovic owns the grass courts of the All England Club 

Perhaps it’s his nuanced plant-based diet. 

Novak Djokovic and his comfort on grass was all too familiar and on display during the fortnight at Wimbledon, as the acclaimed Serbian champion again defended his title with a fourth consecutive major on the surface. 

It’s again a significant title as Djokovic has surpassed Roger Federer with his 21st slam and sits just one behind Rafael Nadal for the all-time lead among men’s players. 

After a strong first week of tennis, Nole was under significant pressure in his quarterfinal match. 

Young Italian Jannik Sinner was playing fearless tennis; he had just knocked out Carlos Alcaraz in the round of 16, and after two brilliant sets, led Djokovic 7-5, 6-2.  

Without even a hint of panic, Djokovic flipped the match on its end. 

He would seize early breaks in each of the next three sets, rallying for a 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win.  

That match set him on a path to the title, as he then dismissed British hopeful Cameron Norrie in four sets, before toppling first-time finalist Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in an entertaining encounter.

Djokovic has now won a staggering 28 consecutive matches at the All England Club dating back to 2018, has tied his idol Pete Sampras for second most majors at Wimbledon on the men’s side with seven and is the only male player to win seven or more slams at two separate events (he holds nine in Australia). 

Unfortunately, as it stands now, Djokovic will be unable to compete at the National bank Open in Montréal due to his vaccination status. 

2. Meet the newest major singles champion – Elena Rybakina  

She is shy and soft spoken off the court. 

On the court, her racquet does the talking. 

Elena Rybakina caught the tennis world by surprise with a stunning run at the All England Club, as she upset Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to come away with the women’s singles crown at Wimbledon.

It’s her first career major and third title overall, and a reminder of the depth and parity across the women’s game as we see new champions emerge on a week-to-week basis. 

Rybakina is the first slam winner from Kazakhstan, a country she’s now represented since 2018, and utilized her powerful serve to great effect on the grass, and dictated play from the baseline with her flat, penetrating forehand. 

Early in the tournament, she thwarted the hopes of Mississauga’s Bianca Andreescu, defeating the Canadian 6-4, 7-6 to advance to the third round. 

Perhaps her signature performance of the event was a flawless 6-3, 6-3 victory over seasoned veteran and 2019 Wimbledon champ Simona Halep in the semi-finals.

Photo : martin Sidorjak

Rybakina is still a relative unknown for many in the sporting world, and in August, tennis fans in Toronto will get their first opportunity to become acquainted with the newly crowned champion. 

The 23-year-old has only once competed at the National Bank Open, losing in the opening round last season in Montréal.  

3. Veteran prowess on display from Halep, Maria 

Romania’s Simona Halep is no stranger to the big stage. 

In fact, the former World No. 1 is a two-time major champion, first prevailing at Roland Garros in 2018 with her maiden slam, and then adding to the hardware by winning Wimbledon in 2019. 

While Halep’s last two seasons were marred by injury as she fell outside of the top 100, 2022 has been a campaign of renewed form and belief. 

The 30-year-old won her 23rd career singles title early this season in Australia at the Melbourne Summer Set. 

Now, with highly acclaimed coach Patrick Mouratoglou now joining her team, Halep is back in contention for majors. 

She produced a great run of tennis at the All England Club, winning five consecutive matches in straight sets including dominant victories over Paula Badosa and Amanda Anisimova.

While her tournament ended in the semi-finals, her form should bode well for this summer at the National Bank Open. 

Halep is a three-time finalist in Canada, and two-time titlist. 

Meantime, 34-year-old Tatjana Maria of Germany broke through for her best result at a major, producing a storybook run to the semi-finals of the event before falling to Ons Jabeur. 

Maria, a mother of two, is a former top 50 player and enjoyed a nice career resurgence in 2022. 

She won her second career WTA singles title this past April, capturing the Copa Colsanitas in Colombia. 

On the grass she looked particularly comfortable, as she navigated a second-round challenge at Wimbledon, defeating Sorana Cirstea in three sets. 

She then caught fire, toppling world no. 5 Maria Sakkari in straight sets, and ousting former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.

She won an all-German quarterfinal against compatriot Jule Niemeier, and played inspiring tennis in defeat in the final four. 

Maria plays crafty, tactical tennis with lots of slice, angles, and is proficient at net with strong volleys. 

She’s a staunch reminder that, with the right determination and health, it is never too late to chase your dreams in your given sport. 

4. Canadians will look to rebound on hard courts 

It was not the fortnight of tennis Canadians were seeking at the Wimbledon Championships. 

On the men’s side, Denis Shapovalov did manage to snap a dreadful six-match losing skid with a tough fought first round victory over Arthur Rinderknech of France.

Denis celebrates winning a point at WimbledonPhoto : Martin Sidorjak

American Brandon Nakashima would dash his hopes in the second round with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 victory over the talented Canadian. 

Montréal’s Félix Auger-Aliassime, who’s been in fine form through much of the 2022 season, could not get past a pesky first round opponent in Maxime Cressy. 

The French American hit 19 aces and dominated net play to keep Félix on his back foot in a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 upset victory. 

Both Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime have shown their penchant for hard courts in the past, particularly at Flushing Meadows. 

They can both be seen in action at the National Bank Open in Montréal this August.  

On the women’s side, while Bianca Andreescu made a final in a grass court lead-up event at the Bad Homburg Open, her Wimbledon dreams were halted by the eventual champ, Elena Rybakina. 

Toronto’s Rebecca Marino got back in the main draw for the first time since 2011, and now finally broke back into the Top 100 this week, but was ousted in the opening round by qualifier Katarzyna Kawa.

It was Ottawa’s Gaby Dabrowski who advanced the furthest at the All England Club, reaching the quarterfinals in mixed doubles alongside Australian John Peers.

Gabriela Dabrowski wins the National Bank Open in montrealPhoto : Pascal Ratthé

Bianca Andreescu will headline the August 7th, Tuesday night session on Sobeys Stadium at the National Bank Open as she returns to the site of her 2019 title. 

Rebecca Marino and Gaby Dabrowski are also set to compete in Toronto.  

Last year’s US Open finalist Leylah Annie Fernandez missed Wimbledon but is currently on schedule to return from her foot injury in early August and should be healthy for competition at the National Bank Open. 

There is even a chance we could spot 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard: the Westmount, Québec star has been out of action for over a year due to a shoulder injury but is rapidly progressing and planning for a return to tour. 

Regardless, there will be no shortage of Canadian talent on display at the courts at Sobeys Stadium.

Sobeys Stadium at sunset in TorontoPhoto : Tennis Canada

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