In 2001, Rogers became the primary sponsor of the Canadian Open, setting Tennis Canada, along with Rogers Cup, down a path that they would never look back from.
This 18-year partnership has taken both Canadian tennis and this country’s national tournament to unimaginable heights.
To put this in perspective, let’s look back at some of the most cherished Rogers Cup moments.
Starting in 2001, Rogers took over as the title sponsor of the women’s tournament, before doing the same with the men’s event in 2005. Since then, Rogers Cup has remained one of the most-anticipated competitions on each tour’s calendar. A reflection of its prestige and world-class status can be seen in the sheer size of the tournament. Each year, Rogers Cup attracts up to a combined 325,000 guests at the men’s and women’s tournaments in Toronto and Montreal. The WTA event is the best-attended, week-long women`s sporting event in the world.
At the same time, Rogers’ impact on the game hasn’t just been limited to the success of our national tournament. Canadian tennis has reached new heights over the last decade thanks to their unwavering support. Programs such as Rogers Community Team Tennis and Rogers Rookie Tour have helped increased national tennis participation levels by 30% and up 300% amongst kids. Their investment also contributed to Tennis Canada’s invest in a national High Performance program that has produced an unprecedented level of junior singles and doubles Grand Slam champions. While, at the professional level, a staggering 11 Canadians reached the top 200 in 2018.
Coming into the 2005 Rogers Cup, at 19 years of age, Rafael Nadal was out to prove to the world that he was more than just a dominant clay-court player. Earlier that season, on the Floridian hard courts, Rafa got within two points of winning the Miami Masters before his rival Roger Federer rallied to victory in a five-set classic, leaving many to wonder whether Nadal would ever win on a surface that wasn’t the “terre battue”. However, in Montreal, the proverbial King of Clay wouldn’t be denied.
With his first Grand Slam title under his belt, the Spaniard came into the Rogers Cup final riding a 15-match winning streak. There, the young Rafa faced off against the legendary Andre Agassi, who was 35 years old at the time. On that day, youth prevailed over experience, as Nadal defeated the eight-time Grand Slam champion in three sets to capture his first ever ATP hard-court title.
In the summer of 2013, fans in Montreal got to witness a seminal moment in the Canadian tennis history. Thanks to a couple of three-set victories against Ernest Gulbis and six-seed Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic reached the Rogers Cup semi-finals. Putting him in a position to become the first-ever Canadian to crack the ATP Tour’s top-10, if he were to reach the final.
But standing in his way was none other than his countryman, Vasek Pospisil. A wild card entry into the tournament, Pospisil took down the likes of John Isner and the fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych along the way – setting up the first all-Canadian semi-final at Rogers Cup in over 50 years. There, Raonic took down Pospisil in a tense three setter 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4) to become the first Canuck to reach the Rogers Cup final since Bob Bedard in 1958. And, although Raonic would ultimately fall in the final to Rafael Nadal, Canada’s top-two male single players found themselves ranked inside the ATP’s top-50 after the tournament, marking another first for Canada.
One year removed from that All-Canadian semi-final, Montrealers were once again treated to another enticing matchup in the Rogers Cup semis. This time, it was the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, meeting for the 25th time in their professional careers. Serena came into this match the favorite, and for good reason. Not only was Serena the top-ranked player in the world and the defending champion, she had also won all five of her previous encounters against Venus. Plus, the younger Williams sister was in the midst of a 14-match Rogers Cup winning streak dating back to the 2011 and 2013 tournaments in Toronto.
But despite the tall task in front of her, a 34-year-old Venus found a way to defeat her sister 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 – scoring her first win over Serena in five years. The victory would also move Venus back into the top-20 for the first time in three years. The older Williams sister would go on to lose in straight sets to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the final. However, Venus’ runner-up finish made her just the third woman to eclipse the $30-million mark in career earnings after Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
The 2015 Rogers Cup produced arguably the most impressive run of any champion in the tournament’s history. There, in Toronto, an 18-year-old Belinda Bencic managed to somehow get past a Grand Slam champion or finalist in all six rounds en route to her second career WTA title. The Swiss teenager started off her maiden Rogers Cup with wins against Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, fourth-seed Caroline Wozniacki, 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and the fifth-seed Ana Ivanovic to book a date in the semis against Serena Williams. Having won the first three Grand Slams of the year, Serena was the overwhelming favorite. But the unseeded Bencic did the unimaginable by handing Serena just her second loss of the year – winning 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. The upset made Bencic the youngest player to take down Serena since Maria Sharapova did it in 2004 at 17 years of age.
In the final, Bencic survived the scorching-hot conditions and fought off Simona Halep for two and a half hours before the Romanian succumbed to the heat. With Bencic winning by retirement, 7-6(5), 6-7, 3-0 ret. By capturing the title in Toronto, Bencic broke into the WTA’s top 15 for the first time in her career. She also became the first teenager to win an event at a Premier 5 level since Victoria Azarenka won the Miami Masters in 2009.
In front of a sold-out crowd in Montreal, that included hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, Denis Shapovalov delivered one of the biggest victories in Canadian tennis history at the 2017 Rogers Cup. After rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the third-set tiebreak, a shocked Shapovalov said “my dream came true today.” The rising NextGen star had just taken down the top-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the Rogers Cup third round. His win against the World No. 2 made him the youngest player (at 18 years, 3 months) to reach the quarter-finals in ATP Masters 1000 history. He also became the youngest quarter-finalist at Rogers Cup since Bjorn Borg reached the QF in 1974 (18 years, 2 months).
But this landmark moment for Canadian tennis almost didn’t happen. As a wild card entry, the 18 year old nearly lost his opening round match against Rogerio Dutra Silva. Forced to save four match points, Shapovalov was able to fight his way out of the first round. Then, he pulled off an upset over the 2009 US Open champion, Juan Martin del Potro, before topping Nadal. The young Canadian would eventually be stopped by the eventual champion, Alexander Zverev, in the semi-finals. But Shapovalov’s run in Montreal has yet to be replicated. He still remains the youngest semi-finalist ever at an ATP Masters 1000 event and in Rogers Cup history.
What a memorable moment that was for those in attendance at Rogers Cup in Montreal, watching one of Canada’s own make history. This summer, you could have a memorable moment of your own at Aviva Centre as the WTA’s best players return to Rogers Cup in Toronto. It could be a behind the scenes meet-and-greet with your favourite player. It could be exclusive seating upgrades. Or it may be a completely “never in a lifetime” fan experience. The only way to know what you may win is by filling out your Rogers Moments fan profile. In the last year alone, we’ve surprised hundreds of fans with unique experiences in hockey, baseball, and music. As a tennis fan, we know you’ll appreciate what we have in store for you. Fill out your profile today, and experience more of the sport that ignites your passion.
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(Feature Photo: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)