The ingredients were there, however, to make the National Bank Open a big party, starting with the return to normal after two tournaments canceled or still butchered by health measures linked to the pandemic.
There was some great tennis, of course, moments of emotion, but not necessarily ecstasy, no magic and above all logistical headaches for the organizers. The heavy rain on Monday, although it did not force the cancellation of sessions, put significant pressure on the game schedule for the days that followed.
After the rain, the top seeds fell one after the other. Daniil Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev all packed up in just hours after just one game.
There’s always plenty going on in a tournament week, and this week was no different.said the director of the tournament, Eugène Lapierre, during his review of the week.
And the Canadians? The passing grade, at most.
Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil flew by, although rain forced Shapovalov to play his two-day match against Alex de Minaur. Returning to the field only to lose five rallies later will not be part of the whimsical southpaw’s career highlights DVD.
Alexis Galarneau was one of the few sparks at the start of the week. Seeing a 23-year-old realize his dream of playing on center court, in front of family and friends, after spending five years in American college tournaments, is deeply moving.
That’s also sport, defeats that sometimes taste good. Not a player lit up the press room with his smile as the Laval resident did.
His first-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov did not earn him a single ATP point due to his guest player status. However, he leaves Montreal richer by 23,000 dollars, enough to pay the hotel and the coach for a few weeks in small tournaments, far from the spotlight.
We will see him again in Vancouver this week and in Granby or New York the next. The 237th in the world still hopes to earn a place in the qualifying table of the United States Open. It would take more than a dozen withdrawals for him to have his place.
And then there is Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Of course, he became the first Quebec player of the modern era to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament. Aleksandra Wozniak did it in 2012. At the time, this premiere was a great success.
For Auger-Aliassime, 9th in the world, there was a certain feeling of incompleteness. He was tense against Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round, released against a Cameron Norrie a little off his game, then downright unrecognizable in front of Casper Ruud.
The week was at least able to solidify the visceral bond that unites him to the Quebec public.
We saw him sign lots of autographs, take pictures with fans, sometimes even just hours before matches. Finding the balance between the generosity of his time and the right state of mind to attack his tournament takes time, Kei Nishikori recalled in Montreal in 2019.
The Japanese had admitted that it took several years before he was really comfortable at the Tokyo tournament.
” Félix was under pressure, and we felt it in the third game. I thought she would arrive in the first game. I was happy to see the level offered by Félix in his first two games, but he will have to learn how not to let expectations get to him. It will be even better next time. »
Auger-Aliassime suffered during his defeat, and the public suffered with him, never letting him go, despite the absurdity of seeing him lose 10 games in a row. In the movies, the heroes always end up getting up, but on Friday afternoon, Auger-Aliassime was struck down.
He will try to get up in Cincinnati or even in New York, where he will not be the focus of the press and the public as at home. He will be able to begin his tournament in the shadow of Serena Williams’ probable last act on Broadway.
Once the Canadians left, the lesser-known players of the curious general public provided the spectacle. The semi-final between Pablo Carreno Busta and Daniel Evans on Saturday night was candy.
And what about Evans who returned to the field at quarter past midnight after his three-hour marathon in singles against the Spaniard, to play his semi-final in doubles which he won, in particular against Hubert Hurkacz .
Respect to Daniel and the fans who stayed until the last racket hit of the day, just before the bars closed.
And respect to Hubert Hurkacz, Eugène Lapierre’s favorite of the week. One if not the first player who went to him to offer his help in the promotional activities of the week.
I didn’t know him very well, but he made me think of the great always happy in your gang of buddies. He was super nice and funny. Then, we saw that it is far from being a penguin on the ground.
Carreno Busta, who knocked out Italian Matteo Berrettini in the first round, is certainly not the most charismatic or well-known champion, but he has already made the world top 10 and reached the semi-finals of the United States internationals.
His victory in the final was fully deserved.
And what would a tennis tournament in Montreal be without an attendance record? Once again this year, the National Bank Open beat its mark by more than 12,000 spectators.
A total of 237,158 fans came to watch matches or practice. Of course, there are of course free tickets distributed for the sessions of the first qualifying weekend.
The fact remains that financially, Tennis Canada can finally replenish its coffers after a tournament canceled in 2020 and another presented in a restricted configuration in 2021.
A great week for the relaunch of operations for Tennis Canada, which finances a large part of the development of its young players through tournament revenue.