A Deep Field for the Bell Challenge

Montreal, September 13, 2010 A deep field which includes three Top 30 players will battle for top honours this week at the Bell Challenge, a $220,000 WTA Tour event currently underway in Quebec City.

A pair of Frenchwomen, world no. 14 Marion Bartoli and world no. 20 Aravane Rezai, lead arguably the deepest field in tournament history, one which also bodes 2009 finalist Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic and four Canadians. In fact, Heidi El Tabakh (Oakville, ON) and Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) will face off in an all-Canadian first round encounter this evening at PEPS on the campus of Laval University with the winner slated to face Bartoli in round two. Stéphanie Dubois (Laval, QC) will play seventh-seeded Olga Govortsova of Belarus in her first round match while Valérie Tétreault (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) will go up against fourth-seeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic, the same player she beat in the first round last year in Quebec City.

Visit www.challengebell.com for all of the latest news and results from the Challenge Bell.

Canada set for Davis Cup battle with the Dominican Republic this weekend

The Miele Canadian Davis Cup team of Frank Dancevic (Niagara Falls, ON), Daniel Nestor (Toronto, ON), Peter Polansky (Thornhill, ON) and Milos Raonic (Thornhill, ON) will take on the Dominican Republic this weekend in a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Americas Zone Group I second round play-off tie at the Rexall Centre in Toronto. The opening singles matches will be played on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. Tickets start as low as $10 and can be purchased by calling 1-877-2TENNIS. The tie will also be webcast live on www.lovemeansnothing.ca

Dubois, Tétreault and Marino head players list for Saguenay National Bank Challenger

The players list for the 2010 Saguenay National Bank Challenger to be held from September 18-26 was unveiled last week and a Canadian trio tops this year’s field which also includes a former champion and some former Top 50 players. Stéphanie Dubois, Valérie Tétreault, Heidi El Tabakh, Rebecca Marino, Eugenie Bouchard (Westmount, QC) and Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) have all earned direct entry into the main draw. Meanwhile, Élisabeth Abanda (Montreal, QC), Katarena Paliivets (Richmond Hill, ON) and Ekaterina Shulaeva (Oakville, ON) have been awarded main draw wildcards by Tennis Canada.

This year’s players list also includes 2008 Saguenay champion Alexa Glatch of the United States, 2009 singles finalist and doubles champion Severine Beltrame of France who is also a former Top 50 player as is fellow entrant Marina Erakovic of New Zealand.

Brits dominate ITF wheelchair event in Montreal

Some of the world’s top wheelchair tennis players were at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal over the weekend to compete in the Tennis Canada International Championships, an ITF2 Series event. In the end, it was the Brits who dominated, sweeping the singles titles and exceling in doubles. World No. 16 Gordon Reid was crowned champion in men’s singles, World No. 9 Lucy Shuker won the women’s title and Jamie Burdekin claimed top honours in the quad division. The tournament’s top Canadian was Gary Luker (Stoney Creek, ON) who was a finalist in singles and doubles in the quad draws. Visit www.lovemeansnothing.ca for all of the final results.

Blake Storms Into Third Round With Impressive Win

James Blake has delivered dazzle and disappointment in some enthralling New York nights. Honored on opening night at the US Open earlier this week, he’s heard the whispers wondering if this might be his Flushing Meadows Farewell. But dancing on his toes behind the baseline tonight like a boxer eager to beat his opponent to the punch in an entertaining brawl, Blake showed he still knows how to throw a block party and brought a few thousand of his fans along for another memorable ride.

Exhorting the fans inside Louis Armstrong Stadium with the wave of his hand, Blake drew a double fault from a rattled Peter Polansky to break serve then put the hammer down in closing a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 crowd-pleasing win to surge into the US Open third round tonight.

The Yonkers, N.Y. has spent part of his injury-ravaged season fielding questions about his future, but showed he still has juice left in his 30-year-old legs and plenty of lightning in his electric forehand in reaching the third round for the eighth straight time.

Based on the way Blake worked the crowd into a rousing state it looked like he spent some of his Wednesday evening watching good friend and former Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick lose focus over a foot fault call in the third set and ultimately fall in four to Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

A cranky Roddick did not engage a crowd eager to impose itself in that match. Blake wisely broke down the barrier between athlete and audience tonight in bouncing in exuberance on his toes, waving the fans on as the 205th-ranked Canadian qualifier stepped up to serve down break point at 4-all.

The crowd responded with a roar, Polansky’s right arm tightened slightly and he sent a double fault beyond the service box as Blake broke for 5-4.

“People  say I’ve been struggling and everything, but I’m still having fun. I’m still having a great time competing,” Blake said. “I still love what I do. Our here, I love it even more.”

As a kid, Blake and older brother Thomas, who was in the support box, tried sneaking into the Open. He needed a wild card to gain entry into his 10th Open and the 108th-ranked Blake played with the passion of a man eager to extend his stay for at least another couple of days.

Hobbled by a right knee injury that sidelined him for two months, caused his ranking to plummet to outside the top 100 for the first time in five years, Blake has looked distracted and disconnected at times this year.

Returning to the place where he’s produced some of his most memorable tennis, Blake regained the buzz in his game and reconnected with the fans all too eager to show their support. The result was Blake turning a two-man competition into a festive match in which he fed off the crowd participation.

“When I have the fans behind me, they helped me get through that at the end,” Blake said. “I’m going to show some emotion out there and try to get the fans involved. I’m going to do my best. That’s what they can expect from me.”

Of course, working in concert with the crowd to dispatch a qualifier playing in his first Grand Slam main draw appearance is one thing, can Blake lift both his level of play and the fans along with him in a potential third-round clash against third-seeded Novak Djokovic?

“I would expect it to be a pretty good match,” Blake said. “He has one of the more underrated serves in the game. He’s got a great service motion, a great serve, one of the best backhands in the game. His movement is unbelievable. I’m going to have to play well, that’s for sure.”

Blake can still unload on his mammoth forehand that sometimes comes off his strings sounding as if its hit with all the force of a steel door slamming shot.  But he will be up against one of the best athletes and hard-court movers in the sport in Djokovic, who induces errors out of opponents with his ability to transition from defense to offense and run down virtually any shot. Djokovic is a more consistent player, which puts more pressure on Blake to squeeze shots closer to the lines in a search for open space.

“If I got out there and I start dictating, I feel like I have a good shot,” Blake said. “But there’s also a good shot that he comes out and plays great tennis and proves why he’s No. 3 in the world right now. But it will be on Ahse Stadium. I think I’ll have pretty good crowd support. Hopefully, I can come up with some of my best as I’ve been known to do before.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Marino and Raonic Set To Make Debuts at the US Open

Montreal, August 30, 2010 – Two of Canada’s rising young stars will experience the biggest moment of their professional careers on Monday when they take to the court for their first Grand Slam main draw match at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York.

Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) and Milos Raonic (Thornhill, ON), both 19 years of age, won three tough qualifying matches over the weekend to earn a coveted spot in the main draw of the final Grand Slam of the season. Marino beat fellow Canadian Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) in the final round on Sunday and will take on Ksenia Pervak of Russia, ranked no. 100 in the world, in her Major debut. For his part, Raonic continued his impressive summer and beat three quality players en route to a main draw berth. He will take on Australia’s Carsten Ball, ranked no. 145 on the ATP rankings. Not to be outdone, Peter Polansky (Thornhill, ON) was the third Canadian to successfully qualify for the U.S. Open main draw and in doing so for the second consecutive year, he earned the right to play Argentine Juan Monaco, seeded 30th in the tournament, in his first round match on Tuesday. This marks the first time this season that a Canadian man will play in the main draw of a Grand Slam and the first time since last year’s Australian Open that there will be two men taking part in the big dance.

Meanwhile, Canada’s top player, Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, QC) will also begin her U.S. Open campaign on Monday against Australian qualifier Sally Peers, ranked no. 201 in the world. Recovering from forearm tendinitis, Wozniak hopes to repeat her performance from a year ago when she reached the third round in New York and defeated Amélie Mauresmo in the process.

Daniel Nestor (Toronto, ON), Marie-Ève Pelletier (Repentigny, QC) and Wozniak will be Canada’s three representatives in doubles at the final Major of 2010. Seeded second in the men’s draw, Nestor and his Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic will go up against Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Roger in their first round encounter. For her part, Pelletier will be testing the waters with a new partner this week in Michaella Krajicek of the
Netherlands. The pair will open against the thirteenth-seeded team of Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer.

Wozniak will team up with Russia’s Anna Chakvetadze and they will battle the Swedish duo of Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson.
Top juniors head to Repentigny for prestigious event.The best junior players in the world are in Repentigny this week to make their final U.S. Open preparations this week at the National Bank Canadian International Junior Open, a prestigious Grade 1 event on the ITF Junior
Circuit which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2010.

Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON), Eugenie Bouchard (Westmount, QC), Élisabeth and Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) and Filip Peliwo (Vancouver, BC) are just a few of the Canadian names who will go head-tohead with the world’s best at the biggest junior tournament in Canada.

The ladies will take centre stage on Monday at Parc Larochelle with singles and doubles action in the girls draws while the boys will take their turn on Tuesday. For all of the latest results, please visit the tournament’s official website www.tennis-junior-repentigny.com.