The WTA returns to Montreal at the 2021 National Bank Open next week, with a field that includes four former champions, seven Slam champions, and a newly-minted Olympic medalist. 

Here's what you need to know about Canada's flagship WTA 1000 tournament: 

When does the tournament start?

The National Bank Open is the first WTA 1000 event of the North American hardcourt swing. It takes place at the IGA Stadium in central Montreal and is played with the Wilson US OPEN Regular Duty balls. The tournament was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying is already underway and main draw play will begin on Monday, August 9th.

Montreal is in the Eastern Time Zone (GMT -4).

When are the finals?

The singles and doubles finals will be played on Sunday, August 15th. The singles final is scheduled for 1:30 pm, with the doubles final to follow.

What does the draw look like? 

Canada's WTA 1000 features a 56 player draw in singles and a 28 team draw in doubles. The United States fields the most direct entrants into the main draw with seven players, followed by the Czech Republic's five and Canada and Russia's four. 

World No.3 Aryna Sabalenka is the top seed, with wildcards going to Leylah Fernandez, Simona Halep, Rebecca Marino, Sloane Stephens, and Carol Zhao. The oldest singles player in the draw is China's Zhang Shuai, 32. The youngest is Coco Gauff, 17.

Kvitova leads the field with 28 WTA titles. Halep is the career prize-money leader, with over $37.5 million won.

For a full breakdown of the Montreal draw, click here.

Who are the defending champions? 

The tournament, which rotates between Montreal and Toronto, features four former champions in the draw: Petra Kvitova (2012), Simona Halep (2016, 2018), Elina Svitolina (2017), and reigning champion Bianca Andreescu (2019). 

The last time Montreal hosted the event, Halep prevailed in a three-set thriller over Sloane Stephens.

Montreal Storylines: Andreescu searches for that spark, Sabalenka looks to level up

In doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova are the defending champions but are not in the draw this year. Krejcikova has opted to rest after non-stop play through the last three months.

2019 Toronto highlights: Bianca Andreescu's top shots

Who are the top seeds?

Four former champions are seeded among the Top 8. The top eight seeds receive byes into the second round. 

1. Aryna Sabalenka
2. Bianca Andreescu
3. Elina Svitolina
4. Karolina Pliskova
5. Garbiñe Muguruza
6. Simona Halep
7. Petra Kvitova
8. Victoria Azarenka

Roundtable: Previewing the North American Summer Swing

What is the prize money and ranking points on offer?

Winner: $221,500/900 points
Finalist: $164,000/585 points
Semifinalist: $87,000/350 points
Quarterfinalist: $41,500/190 points
Round of 16: $21,000/105 points
Round of 32: $13,300/60 points
Round of 56: $10,750/1 point

Who is playing well heading into Montreal?

Danielle' Collins has run off eight consecutive matches on two different surfaces, capturing her first WTA title in Palermo on clay and turning around to tally wins over Sloane Stephens and Elena Rybakina to advance to the semifinals in San Jose, where she is still playing. She could face Halep in the second round in Montreal. 

Also in Montreal off a strong showing in San Jose are Elise Mertens and Daria Kasatkina. 

Collins powers past Stephens in three-set thriller, into QFs: San Jose Highlights

2021 San Jose

Speaking of Rybakina, the 22-year-old has been building to a big result over the two months. Starting with her first major quarterfinal at Roland Garros, where she defeated Serena Williams en route, Rybakina has gone on to make the semifinals in Eastbourne, Wimbledon Round of 16 in her tournament debut, and make the medal rounds at the Tokyo Olympics. She opens against Liudmila Samsonova.

Olympics aside, Montreal represents the first summer hardcourt event for most of the field. 

For a more in-depth look at the storylines heading into Montrea, click here