Any sports fan with even the slightest interest in tennis already knows. There are signs across the city and there have been lots of interviews on the subject: Rogers Cup in Montréal is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Indeed, the festivities are at the heart of the 2019 event.
On Friday, a press conference and three talks were held to officially launch the tournament. Directors, sponsors and players discussed the evolution of Rogers Cup since its early days and shared their memories.
Richard Legendre, tournament director from 1988 to 2001, had stars in his eyes as he recounted the highlights of his 13 years in office.
“It makes me very happy. It’s such a great moment for everyone to get together after 40 years,” he said. “We have to recognize that it’s one of Québec’s greatest successes in sports. We’ve come so far over the past 40 years, from an old abandoned baseball stadium. There were 8 000 people at the first edition—not for the final, for the entire tournament! We’re now among the world’s top events and we’re always getting better and better.”
According to Richard Legendre, the improvements and additions are what enabled Montréal to stay at the very top: “Navigating that, considering the results and realizing that our aim was to help players develop by reinvesting the profits make this year a consecration. We’ve come more than full circle.”
Mr. Legendre, who is the main architect of the project to build the new stadium at Parc Jarry in the 1990s, is especially proud to have democratized Rogers Cup as the tournament was gaining momentum on the world’s stage.
“We organized corn roasts, cultural events and parallel activities. We decided to invite spokespeople and artists. And that’s still the case today,” he explained. “In 1996, our first year, Claude Meunier was our spokesman. Back then, he was a huge star because of La Petite Vie. The day we announced it was him, we sold more tickets than on the day we announced that the World No.1 would be playing in the event.”
That’s when he understood that people didn’t buy tickets to see Claude Meunier. “With all due respect to Claude, it wasn’t about him as a spokesperson. It was about reaching people. That night, he appeared on a very popular talk show with Julie Snyder. A lot of people heard about the tournament and decided to buy tickets. At the same time, a press release about the World No.1 wasn’t getting any traction. I realized that the support of Montrealers and Quebecers is what makes the tournament’s success. We had to reach them, and I think the event is able to do that remarkably well year after year,” he explained.
Over the past few weeks, tournament director Eugène Lapierre, who took the reins from Richard Legendre after spending several years as his righthand man, has answered every possible question on the celebrations surrounding the 40th anniversary of Rogers Cup.
Above all, he insists on how thrilled he is to see his hard work pay off. “We have such a great team,” he affirmed on Friday. “What the tournament has given me is the pleasure of working as part of a team and seeing the project culminate in something that everyone enjoys and gives results. For the past week, I’ve been explaining over and over again how the profits from Rogers Cup are reinvested in tennis development. With the launch of the National Tennis Centre—another project to which I contributed—new press box and clay courts, young players like Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard all came to train in Montréal. What’s amazing is that, because we’re right upstairs, we go down to lunch in February and see Félix Auger-Aliassime and Bianca Andreescu, who have become so successful. And that’s exactly why we do this. We develop players and create an incredible show. That’s what I’m most proud of.”