While San Jose and the District of Columbia provided tantalizing appetizers, the feast that is the North American hard-court season will hit the palate full force Monday. The National Bank Open presented by Rogers features a dizzying platter of marquee-quality performers whom we haven’t seen together in more than a year.
Venus and Serena Williams, at the ages of 42 and 40, return to action. At the other end of the spectrum, Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, who stunned the tennis world as teenagers by reaching the US Open final a year ago, are also in the lineup.
Toronto will offer each of them an opportunity to create momentum. Venus and Serena have played only one singles match each over the past year, while Raducanu, who the past week won consecutive matches for the first time since May, could also use a boost.
Along with them, here are six other players looking to create a spark over the next couple of weeks:
She stepped into the No.1 ranking vacated by Ashleigh Barty back in March and separated herself from the field with a 37-match win streak, the longest of this century. The 21-year-old from Poland won six straight tournaments, including her second Roland Garros title and the rare Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami.
"This tournament was like a breakthrough for me in my mind" @iga_swiatek speaking about her last visit to Toronto in 2019 when she won her first WTA1000 match.— National Bank Open (@NBOtoronto) August 6, 2022
3 years later she returns as world No.1 pic.twitter.com/rmAC9MXEtr
Her record of 48-5 is the best on tour, but two of those losses have come in her past four matches. It was Alizé Cornet who ended one of the great runs in women’s tennis history, taking a straight-set win in the third round at Wimbledon.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Swiatek, playing at home, would find it difficult to win the inaugural Poland Open in Warsaw. She fell in three sets to eventual champion Caroline Garcia in the quarterfinals.
Swiatek, who has a first-round bye, will be buoyed by the fact that her streak began with three hard-court titles, going back to Doha in February.
To be fair, Sakkari has posted a 27-15 record this year, won more than $1.5 million -- and finds herself ranked a career-high No.3. It’s probably nitpicking, but she’s dropped four of her past six matches.
It began with a loss to Belinda Bencic in the semifinals in Berlin. The 27-year-old from Greece dropped her first match on grass in Eastbourne to Anhelina Kalinina, then succumbed to the feel-good story that was Tatjana Maria in Wimbledon’s third round.
After more than a month off, Sakkari was the top seed at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic -- and promptly fell to unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-1, 6-3. She’s got a first-round bye but will face the winner of Sofia Kenin-Sloane Stephens.
It’s been an uneven 2022 season for the four-time major champion, who is ranked No.41. The good news? All four of those titles came on hard courts, where her power pays off handsomely.
Osaka reached the final in Miami, losing to Swiatek, but the clay results were spotty; the 24-year-old from Japan lost two of three matches and picked up an injury. After passing on Wimbledon, Osaka returned to San Jose and won a three-set match against the formidable teenager Zheng Qinwen. She saved seven match points against the in-form Coco Gauff in the second round but fell 6-4, 6-4.
Osaka has a tough opener, Kaia Kanepi, who is already a semifinalist in D.C.
After a terrific 2021 season in which she won the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, it’s been a serious slog for the two-time major champion.
Her last three outings: a second-round loss on the grass in Eastbourne, a first-round Wimbledon defeat (as the No.9 seed) at the hands of Greet Minnen and, more than one month later, a withdrawal in San Jose with a right arm injury. She currently sits at No.53 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard.
After a first-round bye, Muguruza gets the winner of Osaka-Kanepi.
She’s actually the defending champion in Toronto, going back to her victory in 2019 -- just ahead of the breakthrough win at the US Open.
After reaching the final in Bad Homburg, Andreescu lost in the second round at Wimbledon, to eventual champion Elena Rybakina. Ranked No.54, Andreescu lost her first match in San Jose to Shelby Rogers.
First up for Andreescu is Daria Kasatkina, who defeated No.4 seed Aryna Sabalenka to reach the San Jose semifinals.
After a four-month sabbatical, Kenin has some work to do.
The 23-year-old American was a surprise winner at the 2020 Australian Open but the past two years have been challenging, to say the least. There was a brief dismissal of her father, Alex, as coach, bouts with appendicitis and COVID-19, as well as debilitating toe and ankle injuries. The latter took her out for four months. Her unofficial return resulted in a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Coco Gauff at an exhibition in Atlanta a week ago. At the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., she lost her first match to Camila Osorio 7-6 (2), 6-1.