On Friday morning, Françoise Abanda woke up thinking she’d be playing in the Rogers Cup qualifying event and have to fight her way into the main draw.
But she may have stumbled upon a four-lead clover, a horseshoe and a rabbit’s foot at the end of a rainbow.
When Bianca Andreescu of Ontario pulled out of the tournament due to a back injury that stopped her in her tracks in her semifinal match at the Granby National Bank Challenger last week, Abanda took her spot in the main draw. And when the draw was decided later that evening, fortune smiled on the Montrealer again: instead of facing a seeded player, she will be up against a qualifier in the first round.
“The luckiest player in the world today is Françoise Abanda,” affirmed tournament director Eugène Lapierre. “She was supposed to play in the qualifying rounds, finds out that Andreescu is injured, replaces her in the main draw and then gets a qualifier!”
When asked about the qualifying tournament, Lapierre acknowledges the challenge. “There is strong competition this week. [Carla] Suarez Navarro, who is currently ranked World No.27, is here. So is Grand Slam champion Samantha Stosur. There are a lot of solid players in the qualifying rounds. On Sunday night, we’ll find out who Françoise will play in the first round.”
Tough top half
There are a number of interesting matches slated for early next week.
The top of the draw is looking a lot like a group of death with players including World No. 1 and reigning Rogers Cup champion in Montréal Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams.
Over the next few days, 11 Canadians will play at IGA Stadium. Rebecca Marino, Gabriela Dabrowski, Carson Branstine, Leylah Annie Fernandez, Katherine Sebov, Isabelle Boulais, Catherine Leduc and Alexandra Vagramov will battle to join their countrywomen Abanda, Eugenie Bouchard and Carol Zhao in the main draw.
Bouchard, who is currently ranked No.123, will face Elise Mertens (14), and Zhao, No. 138, is pitted against No.18 Kiki Bertens in the opening round.
“[Mertens] has had a good season so far, with great results. And she’s a player who likes fast courts,” affirmed Lapierre. “I think Eugenie knew she would be facing good players here. And I think she will be relatively satisfied with the draw. I don’t know where Mertens is in the world at the moment, in San Jose or Washington, (note: On Friday, Mertens qualified for the semifinals in San Jose.) but we’d like to start the week off with Eugenie on Monday. So, we’ll see.”
Rebecca Marino, who is slowly working her way up the rankings after reaching a career high of No.38 in 2011, impressed Lapierre at last week’s Granby National Bank Challenger, where she reached the quarterfinals.
“She hits a 180-km/hour serve and hard forehands and backhands. She’s gaining confidence, and maybe a tournament like this one will help her get to the next level,” explained Lapierre. “If I had to bet on one Canadian getting through, I just might bet on her.”