Serena Williams may be a no-show at Rogers Cup but, as Eugène Lapierre says: “the show must go on.”
On Saturday, the three-time Rogers Cup champion withdrew from the tournament in Montréal for personal reasons.
Tournament director Eugène Lapierre has not yet had the chance to speak with the former World No.1 or her agent and therefore cannot provide any further details on the absence.
After recently returning to the game after a 14-month hiatus to have her daughter, Alexis Olympia, Williams was slated to encounter Alizé Cornet of France in round 1.
Lapierre did confirm that Williams had made a number of requests to prepare for her arrival, including specific types of baby milk and diapers for her daughter, which would suggest that the 36-year-old had planned to attend and ultimately changed her mind at the last minute.
“All I know is that it can’t be easy for her to come back as a new mother and have to handle so many things,” said Eugène Lapierre. “I know what she had to do to get here, and it’s quite an undertaking. She didn’t have an easy time of it at her hard-court tournament [in Indian Wells in March], and she may not have been totally satisfied with her game in training to enter an event of this caliber. We just don’t know.”
Lapierre affirmed that the competition remained fierce despite the disappointment surrounding William’s absence.
“That’s the nature of sport and especially individual sport. It’s less apparent in team sports. When the Pittsburgh Penguins are in town, they put on a good show even if [Sidney] Crosby doesn’t play,” explained Lapierre. “It’s not the same in an individual sport. But the tournament itself doesn’t change. The Top 10 are here, and so are 22 of the Top 25. When you take a look at the draw, there’s a great match every two or three lines. It’s going to be a fantastic show.”
“The tournament is bigger than any individual player. It’s the best display of women’s tennis in the world. We broke the attendance record for a one-week event and we’re very proud of that,” added Lapierre.
Tatjana Maria, another mom on the WTA Tour, will take Williams’ place in the main draw and skirt the qualifying event.
Maria won her first career title in June, when she defeated Anastasija Sevastova in the final in Mallorca. She also surprised last year’s Rogers Cup winner Elina Svitolina in the first round of Wimbledon last month.
“Fans will have the chance to discover young players they’re less familiar with, like [Daria] Kasatkina, [Naomi] Osaka and [Jelena] Ostapenko. They’re the future of tennis,” said Lapierre. “This tournament started in 1881—I wasn’t around then—but the sport has evolved so much. We rely on this event to promote the sport. That’s how I see it and that’s what I’m focused on.”