The 2017 Rogers Cup

Written By: Michael Emmett

The Rogers Cup in Toronto had arguably its best field ever.  22 of the top 23 female players on the planet attended our tournament, also known as the Canadian Open in some countries.  This is outstanding!  The cutoff for the main draw was 49 – meaning if you were ranked 50 or lower you were forced into the qualifying if you wanted to play in the World’s third oldest championship (Wimbledon & the US Open are ranked #1, #2).  The quality of the draw was far and away the best on tour this season and maybe the best ever for a NON-Grand Slam event.  Even the men in Montreal were missing some marquee names – Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka & Marin Cilic.

Other than a little rain on Friday night, the Rogers Cup at the Aviva Centre was blessed with great weather for the 8-day tournament. The scheduling was top notch with star quality everywhere you turned.  Pliskova, Muguruza, Halep, Kerber & eventual champion Svitolina played quality opponents as the field was condensed to the round of 16.  The matchups were filled with potential and we were treated to some great theatre on the main courts.

The folks at the Cup had it all going on.  Great food, activities for all to enjoy, supreme entertainment, a wonderful auction – you name it and it was there for everybody.  It was a rocking event by all who attended for the entire week.  It was and always has been ranked in the top 2 or 3 by the players who fill out surveys on such matters.  The court service is identical to the US Open, so it acts as a perfect warm up for the year’s last grand slam in the early part of September at Flushing Meadows, New York.

So the question that begs to be asked, why were the seats half empty for a large chunk of the tournament?  Why did the fans in Montreal outnumber the fans in Toronto by almost 100,000?  Why did the organizers in Toronto decide against putting in the upper seats in the Aviva Centre?

Is it simply the men’s game vs. the women’s game?  Is it that Montreal fans are ‘better’ fans than those in Toronto?  Was it the Denis factor?

One thing I know for sure is the quality of tennis on the WTA tour is outstanding.  The game is deeper than it has ever been before.  First round match ups are full of drama and great shot making.  Radwanska vs. Vandeweghe was a first round match in Toronto and it goes to show that the days are gone when you’d get an easy pass for a 1st or 2nd round match.

The prevailing attitude from tennis fans at the various country clubs is that women’s tennis is boring. The average fan thinks the players are all the same and they bang the ball around with no creativity, no thought.  The word from coaches who attended the event is that some of these players are wild and reckless in their decision making.  Too many unforced errors, too many change of direction shots which ultimately lead to mistakes.

I agree with this sentiment to some degree but I think it is UNTRUE for the most part.  Women’s tennis is awesome and I think many would agree if they just gave it a chance.  I went to the event 5 times and enjoyed every moment.  It is a great day or night of entertainment.

We are so spoiled in so many ways.  We have the best players in the world on a stage 45 minutes from downtown Toronto and we are too lazy, too busy or too cheap to go witness some of the best female athletes on the planet.  Other than the serve, the ball is being hit at the same velocity as the men.  The rallies, in most instances, are longer which makes for better entertainment.  Most of us could learn far more watching a women’s match than a men’s match because the similarities to the club player are more on par with the way the Women construct the points from a more neutral position.

That’s all for now.  I hope next year’s women’s event in Montreal gets over the 200,000 barrier and puts this silly argument to bed that women’s tennis is somehow inferior to the men’s game.  As a commentator on the Fan 590 for the wonderful sport of tennis, I feel like it’s my job to change this ridiculous thinking and get fans to love the sport, whether it’s the men’s game or the women’s game.  And slowly but surely I feel like I’m making some progress.  This game will only get better and better –  I hope the fans recognize this and start watching in droves, because as we all know this sport cannot survive without the television numbers or the spectators in the seats. WTA tennis is on life support and in my view there is no reason for this!