Impressive lineup for 2019 VanOpen, with some of Canada’s brightest talents leading the wayTiming is on the Odlum Brown VanOpen’s side.The ATP Challenger and ITF World Tennis Tour event gets going Monday at the Hollyburn Country Club with tennis quite topical right now, especially with Bianca Andreescu’s run at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.Andreescu, a 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., was at the VanOpen two years ago. She lost in the opening round.Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino, a fan favourite who made the VanOpen quarterfinals last year as part of her return to tennis, was originally slated to compete at Hollyburn this time as well, and was part of the tournament’s initial marketing push, but she’s had to pull out due to injury.The tournament is still loaded with marquee talent though, including several Canadians. Here are five players to watch:Genie BouchardThe 25-year-old from Montreal returns to Hollyburn for a second straight year as she looks to regain her game.Bouchard, who got to the 2014 Wimbledon final during a run to the No. 5 world ranking that year, was ranked No. 112 to start last week when she fell to Andreescu 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in an opening-round duel between the Canadians at the Rogers Cup. It was a ninth consecutive defeat for Bouchard, dating back to a first-round win in Dubai in February. Bouchard had taken some time off along the way as well due to an abdominal injury.Bouchard, who lost in last year’s quarterfinals to Japan’s Nao Hibino. debuted at VanOpen in 2010 as a 16-year-old, losing in the first round India’s Sania Mirza. The next year, she was one of the showcase competitors at the event’s media day, on the strength of being the No. 6 ranked junior player at the time. She and Laura Robson, a Brit who won the 2008 Wimbledon junior title and had been a friend for years, set it up so that they would come in matching Adidas outfits. “She’s just a great girl and we have a lot in common, except that she has the worse taste in music,” Robson quipped to reporters that day. Robson got to No. 27 in the world in 2013, but has been battling injuries of late.Despite falling earlier in the week, Eugenie Bouchard is still practicing on the grounds of the Aviva Centre with new coach Jorge Todero ahead of travelling to Vancouver to play the Odlum Brown VanOpen. 🇨🇦 #RC19 pic.twitter.com/X5UeWruD2d— Max Gao (@MaxJGao) August 9, 2019Leylah Annie FernandezThe 16-year-old from Laval won the French Open junior title in June, becoming the first Canadian female to capture a junior Grand Slam since Bouchard won at Wimbledon in 2012. Fernandez then went pro last month and won the Gatineau National Bank Challenger and lost in the final of the Granby National Bank Challenger.Fernandez lost in the first round of the Rogers Cup last week in Toronto, 21-year-old Czech Republic native Marie Bouzkova taking a 6-0, 6-1 decision.“Just stepping on court and hearing the screams of the Canadians over here, it was amazing,” Fernandez told reporters afterwards. “Too bad I couldn’t play my best, but I did what I could today and I just made some mistakes.”She did play doubles at the Rogers Cup with Simona Halep, the Romanian who won Wimbledon this season. The pair lost in the first round.Ernests GulbisGulbis got to No. 10 in the world 2014, but fell down the rankings and out of the spotlight as he battled injuries. He made noise again last year, beating third seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the third round of Wimbledon before losing in the fourth.Gulbis followed that up by beating Canadian Denis Shapovalov and Americans Jack Sock and John Isner before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the Stockholm Open final.Gulbis, a 30-year-old from Latvia who was ranked No. 124 in the world this past week, is also known for his notable quotes over the years. For instance back in 2013, Gulbis told French daily L’Equipe that the Big Four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were “boring players,” and their interviews were “rubbish.” He was also quoted as saying: “I have no interest in appearing nice. On the court it’s a war. I would like interviews to be more like boxing. They bring what the fans want: war, blood, emotion. In tennis everything is clean, polite and false handshakes.”Brayden SchnurThe Pickering, Ont., product, starred in the NCAA ranks with the North Carolina Tar Heels before turning pro in 2016, an uncommon route for top Canadian players.“I didn’t have the success of Félix (Auger-Aliassime), Denis or Filip (Peliwo) in the juniors. I was super skinny and felt like there were a lot of elements of my game that needed to be improved before turning pro,” Schnur, 24, was quoted as saying in a June article on Tennis Canada’s website.He also raved about the team atmosphere experience at North Carolina. “In tennis, there is always a little bit of jealousy, even at the junior level. But in college, you don’t feel any of that. You just feel pure emotions for whatever your teammates do because they are your best friends. At the end of the day, a win for them is a win for the team.”Schnur was ranked No. 98 in the world this past week. His career high in ranking is No. 97, coming earlier this season.Schnur lost to Slovakia’s Nobert Gombos in the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger last month and lost in the first round of the Rogers Cup, dropping a 6-1, 6-2 decision to American Tommy Paul. Schnur lost in the first round of the VanOpen last year to German Yannick Maden.
Vasek Pospisil of Canada flips his racket in his match against compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime during first round of play at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, Tuesday, August 6, 2019 in Montreal.
Paul Chiasson /
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Vasek PospisilThe 29-year-old, who was born in Vernon and raised in Vancouver, was the No. 205 player in this past week’s rankings, namely because he had back surgery in January and missed the first six months of the season.Pospisil lost to countryman Auger-Aliassime at Wimbledon in his season debut. He also lost to Auger-Aliassime in the opening round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal last week, with Auger-Aliassime coming out on top 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3).Pospisil did get to No. 25 in the world in 2014, and finished last year at No. 70.He lost in the semifinals at last year’s VanOpen to Great Britain’s Dan Evans. Oddly enough, he had beaten Evans in the 2013 VanOpen final.Pospisil has been vocal of late about how tennis is run. He penned an article for the Globe and Mail earlier this month entitled “Tennis needs change if it wants to restore fairness and transparency,” and stated in it that players deserve a greater share of revenues and need a union to advocate for their interests.He wrote: “While it is true that the top 50 players in the world make a great living — I make a healthy living, for which I’m grateful — the realities are that, outside of the top 100 players, when you add up the personal and staff expenses for a 30- to 35-week travel calendar, most players are either losing money or breaking even.”firstname.lastname@example.orgPlayers ranked 300-500 have been completely stranded with scheduling and the ability to even compete in events. In the era of the big 4, (where tennis is booming largely thanks to them) there should be an abundance of wealth, growth, and opportunity for MORE players.. Not fewer.— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) August 8, 2019