The Olympic puzzle of the National Bank Open

Once every four years, the ATP and WTA calendars are shaken up by the presentation of the Olympic Games. And this year, the tournament most penalized by this Olympic parenthesis is the National Bank Open.

From Saturday July 27 to Sunday August 4, the best tennis players in the world will slide on the red sand of Roland-Garros to try to offer their country an Olympic medal.

Then, from Tuesday, August 6, the athletes must already be in the Quebec metropolis to begin their journey in the main draw of the National Bank Open. An extremely short deadline having somewhat disrupted the routine of the event organizers, recognizes Valérie Tétreault, tournament director.

“It’s not the first time we find ourselves in a scenario like this, but I can’t deny that it’s far from ideal, what we’re experiencing this year. »

If some fear the absence of the best players in the world due to the proximity of the two tournaments and the physical and mental rest sometimes necessary after participating in the largest sporting meeting in the world, Tétreault is more worried about the change in surface imposed on the players.

The old 112e racket world emphasizes that the sequence of different courts could discourage certain players from coming to spend a week in the hometown of Mylène Farmer.

In the space of a month, they will have to rub shoulders with the lawn of Wimbledon, the clay of Roland-Garros and the cement of Montreal. “I think we don’t need a professional player to understand that it’s not simple and that it works a little against us,” explains Tétreault.

Take the means

Motivated by the ambition to convince players to come and compete in the Montreal Masters 1000, the tournament organizers obtained a waiver from the ATP to postpone the usual schedule by one day. The main draw will therefore begin on Tuesday and the final will be held on Monday evening. A scenario far from ideal, recognizes Tétreault, but the best she could find in the circumstances.

“The message we sent to the players was that we clearly did everything we could to try to help them and to facilitate their participation in the Montreal tournament. »

Fortunately for the organizers, the presence of the National Bank Open among the Masters 1000 group makes player participation mandatory, under penalty of losing precious points in the ranking. However, in concrete terms, some players will prefer to lose a few inches in the rankings rather than risk injury from overload.

The possibility that medalists want to rest also exists. And the chances of players like Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic or Jannik Sinner winning a medal in Paris are quite high. However, the potential absence of players of this caliber at the Montreal tournament would certainly create a considerable void in the main draw. A possibility of which Tétreault is well aware.


Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner

“Precisely, in the coming weeks, it is clear that I will start to communicate a little more closely with the different teams to find out everyone’s intentions. But it’s something that we will have to look at very closely considering the results at Wimbledon and depending on the results at the Olympic Games. We will have to adjust accordingly. »

Canadian assessment

Now, what can save the day, she believes, is the success and pace with which Canadian players could arrive.

“That’s where it’s interesting to have Canadian players who are a little more at the top of their form and who can perform, because for them, it remains extremely important to play at home. We’re not too worried about the Canadian players. »

However, local players are having a fairly modest start to the season.

In his last five tournaments, Félix Auger-Aliassime has never played more than two matches. He notably lowered his flag to Andrey Rublev in Rotterdam, Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells and Alexander Zverev in Miami.


Felix Auger-Aliassime

Denis Shapovalov slipped to 126e rank after a complicated start to the season, still marked by some good flashes, like his most recent victory against Stéfanos Tsitsipás.

Back in the game, Milos Raonic is doing quite well. He has won three of his six matches, but his three defeats ended in retirement, as he is still bothered by various injuries.

This is nothing new this year for Canadian players, we know that 2023 was a slightly more complicated year. I was hopeful that in 2024 there would be things that would unlock for some of our players.

Valérie Tétreault, director of the National Bank Open

However, she remains optimistic: “I continue to believe that our best athletes have the level to regain their place among the elite. But it’s certain that it’s something that we follow closely, because it’s a bit of what we’ve noticed in recent years: the fact that with the rise of Canadian tennis, we’re observing a rise of interest in tennis. »

With the possible absence of key players, the poor season of Canadian players, a final played on a Monday evening and the constant risk of capricious weather, Tétreault will have to maintain strength to face the wind that will blow as the month approaches. of August. The tournament director is eager to return to a certain normality, she confirms with a marked laugh.

“I understand why Eugène (Lapierre) retired, but joking aside, it’s not for right away because of all the changes planned for 2025.”

Indeed, the number of players will increase from 56 to 96 and the duration of the tournament will increase from 7 to 12 days.

“So we’ll see, we’re aiming for 2026 for a return to normal! »


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