Ask the four Rogers Cup champions playing in Montréal this week what they remember about their Canadian title and you will get four very vivid recollections.
Caroline Wozniacki was the first among them to win. The Danish ace took the title in Montréal in 2010, when she was just 20 years old. A rising WTA star, she was on an incredible winning streak. And just weeks after winning Rogers Cup, she became World No.1 for the very first time.
Injuries, a public breakup, luckless Grand Slams and a tumble in the rankings slowed her down, but, eight years after her dream week in Montréal, she is back at IGA Stadium and back on top as World No.2—in a perpetual battle with Simona Halep of Romania for the top honours. She also happens to be the reigning Australian Open champion.
“I think it’s a bit different,” said Wozniacki when asked about what has changed. “Obviously, you gain a lot of experience. You learn every year. I’m just happy to still be here and be playing great tennis, so it’s exciting times, for sure.”
Elina Svitolina is the most recent Rogers Cup women’s champion. The Ukrainian took the title in Toronto last year and clearly remembers how proud she was to raise the trophy at the end of a challenging week.
“It was an unbelievable week for me because, from the first round, I had a very, very tough draw,” she explained “I think I played every match against Top 20 players, and my last three matches were against Top 10 players. I was probably in my best shape. I could still improve my physical condition, but I was seeing the ball really well, reading the game well. I was playing well. That’s why, coming back to Canada, I feel ready to play well.”
After Wozniacki but before Svitolina, there were 2012 champion Petra Kvitova and 2016 champion Simona Halep.
Kvitova, the 2011 WTA Player of the Year, won her first title of 2012 in Montréal—her first career title in North America—at the age of 22.
“It feels like it was a long time ago! It was amazing. I remember I came here alone, just me and my PR manager. No coaches, so it was a pretty free tournament for me,” she recalled. “Obviously, I played great tennis. Different things have happened in my life and in tennis since. I think everybody is growing and doing different things and feeling a bit different as well so it’s the same with me.”
Kvitova is experiencing a resurgence this year and has claimed five championships since the start of 2018. After surviving a knife attack in her home in late 2016 that left her with a serious injury to her left hand, she has found her way back to the Top 10 and currently sits at No.8.
Of the four, Simona Halep is probably the one whose life has changed the most since winning here two years ago. Like Caroline Wozniacki, she also earned her very first Grand Slam at Roland-Garros this summer. She started the season out at World No.1 and, after a brief stumble, has sat at the very top for the past 19 weeks.
“It was a great week, maybe my best week because it’s a big tournament and I won singles and did the final in doubles,” she recounts. “Many things have changed in my life. I think I’m a different person, a different player, in a good way.”
Halep is the first to admit that the many Romanian fans and waves of blue, yellow and red Romanian flags add something special to Rogers Cup in Montréal. She has expressed her love for Montrealers and says she feels at home every time she visits.
All four have only good things to say about the city and have come a long way since their Rogers Cup triumphs. Still, they have arrived in Montréal with the same goal: to build on their experience and be the next player to add a second Rogers Cup crown to their trophy case since Serena Williams (2001, 2011 and 2013).