Canadian Open 2022: Swiatek, Raducanu and two Williams headline glittering Toronto draw
Tournament boasts 15 Major champions, including former champs Serena Williams, Kvitova, Halep and Andreescu
The men’s Canadian Open, in Montreal this summer, may be missing some of its most successful champions, but that is far from the case in the women’s tournament in Toronto.
The field includes eight players to have held the No1 ranking and 15 Major champions. Six of the seven still-active former Canadian Open titlists are in the draw, with just Elina Svitolina absent as she expects her first child in October.
And every single top-16 player in the live rankings is slated to fill the seedings. But that is not all.
A pair of Williams
Venus Williams has taken a wild card into her first main-tour singles draw in almost a year. The remarkable 42-year-old has not won a singles match since Wimbledon 2021, and while she played her first match at this level at this very tournament back in 1995, she has played only nine times since and got beyond the third round just once, in a final run in 2014.
It is a real coup for the event, especially as younger sister, the soon-to-be-41 Serena, a three-time champion, who played her first match in 12 months at Wimbledon, is also here. Only once in nine previous visits has she failed to make the semis, and she reached the final in her last appearance, Toronto 2019.
Young stars also feature
The 23-year-old American Sofia Kenin, who made such an impression in the run-up to the pandemic closure, has played and won little since, but is also making a welcome return in Toronto.
As for the home nation, there has been doubly good news. The 2019 US Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, who was winner of both Indian Wells and Toronto that same year, went on to suffer knee and back injuries, but she returns to Toronto with some good runs on clay and grass this summer.
Not that the draw has done her any favours, especially given a niggling back issue in her opening loss in San Jose a week ago. She opens against No11 seed and San Jose finalist, Daria Kasatkina, though she beat the Russian handily in Bad Homburg.
Also flying the maple leaf is US Open runner-up, 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez, who has been absent with a foot injury. Unlike Andreescu, she is still seeded, at 13, but has never won a match in her home 1000. She will have to be on top form to do go deep this year, drawn into a killer quarter with Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Iga Swiatek—though she should get that first win against an opening qualifier.
A top-half packed with champions
Both Canadians, then, are in a humdinger of a top half. Andreescu and Kenin are joined in their quarter by two more unseeded Major champions, Barbora Krejcikova and Sloane Stephens, along with seeds that include No3 and Indian Wells runner up, Maria Sakkari, and No5, the Wimbledon runner-up, Ons Jabeur.
Also here are former No1 Karolina Pliskova, runner up in Montreal last year, and the in-form Caroline Garcia, who has won two titles, on grass and clay, since Roland Garros.
Yet the other top quarter, headed by world No1 Swiatek, is even more stacked, not least by the presence of Swiatek herself.
Super Swiatek hopes to regain winning ways
Of the five WTA1000 events played so far this year, the young Polish star has won four—three on hard courts in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami. Her unbroken run of titles, beginning in Doha, also included Stuttgart, Rome and Roland Garros, with her 37-match winning streak ended at Wimbledon.
She has bypassed any warm-up hard court events to prepare on Toronto’s courts, where she reached the third round in her debut as an 18-year-old in 2019. However, the superstar of the 2022 season will have her work cut out if she is to fulfil her title ambitions.
For a start, she opens against, either Veronika Kudermetova or Shelby Rogers, this week’s San Jose semi-final opponents. In Round 3, she is scheduled to meet Fernandez, and in the quarters, perhaps not the struggling Garbine Muguruza but instead former champion Belinda Bencic—or Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka or this week’s Washington finalist, Kaia Kanepi. All of those barring Bencic are unseeded.
In truth, though, there is not a weak quarter anywhere. The first of the bottom half sections, headed by Badosa, contains Emma Raducanu, whose stunning US Open victory began its build-up during the North American swing a year ago, though not at the main-tour level. So this is her Canada debut, with two valuable wins under her belt in Washington.
The test begins in Round 1 with defending champion, the unseeded Camila Giorgi. The third round is also dangerous—Jessica Pegula or Madison Keys—with Badosa and the unseeded Petra Kvitova lurking in the quarters.
As for the bottom quarter, headed by No2 seed Anett Kontaveit, former champion Simona Halep will hope to bounce back from her retirement in a sweltering Washington, and Venus Williams will also threaten for a quarter-final place, along with Sabalenka, Coco Gauff, or perhaps the Wimbledon champion, unseeded Elena Rybakina, though she has played and lost just one match since London, in San Jose.
First-round matches to catch (NB all but one are in the top half)
· Rogers vs Kudermetova: Both beat big names, Sakkari and Jabeur respectively, to face one another in the San Jose semis. There, Rogers won 6-3, 6-4 to reach her first final in six years. Kudermetova had decent runs on all three surfaces this year, though the Russian was banned from Wimbledon, and made two hard-court finals, including Dubai.
· Bencic vs Azarenka: All Azarenka’s 1000 titles have come on hot, hard courts, including multiple wins at Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. Three times she has reached the semis in Canada, but she will have to beat a former champion in Bencic; the two have not met in three years.
· Kanepi vs Osaka: The 37-year-old Kanepi, who plays the Washington final this weekend, is a player no-one wants to find in the early rounds. In her long career, she has reached the quarters of all four Majors plus four 1000s, but her four titles have all come at the lower tiers. Yet she has a big game when on song—as does, of course, Osaka, who lost her only match against Kanepi in the 2017 US Open. The Japanese star went on to win the title there the following year, plus three more hard-court Majors. The runner-up in Miami, she played for the first time since the French Open in San Jose, losing a showcase match-up against Gauff in Round 2. That could provide the perfect launch-pad for another North American surge.
Others to watch…
· Stephens vs Kenin: Two former hard-court Major champions, both Americans, in a first-time meeting.
· Pliskova vs Krejcikova: A former No1 and US Open finalist takes on the former French Open champion for the first time since their three-setter at the WTA Finals last November.
· Kasatkina vs Andreescu: The former Canadian champion has two wins over the Russian, but Kasatkina beat Wimbledon champion Rybakina plus Sabalenka and Badosa to reach the San Jose final, having made the semis in Rome and Roland Garros.
· Raducanu vs Giorgi: The Briton is making her debut in the city where she was born, so will enjoy plenty of support as she takes on the defending champion, though Giorgi has just lost her seventh opening-round match of the year in San Jose.
2022 WTA winners on outdoor hard courts
Melbourne Summer Set 1: Halep
Melbourne Summer Set 2: Amanda Anisimova
Adelaide 250: Keys
Australian Open: Barty [now retired]
Dubai: Jelena Ostapenko
Indian Wells: Swiatek
Prague: Marie Bouzcova
Washington: final Kanepi vs Liudmila Samsonova
San Jose: final Rogers vs Kasatkina
Former champions in draw
Giorgi [defending], Andreescu, Halep [twice], Bencic, Serena Williams [three times], Kvitova
Absentees from 16 seeds
Ekaterina Alexandrova, Angelique Kerber, Irina-Camelia Begu, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Sorana Cîrstea, Alison Van Uytvanck, Markéta Vondroušová
Draws 56 women, including 16 seeds (eight with first-round byes)
Top half, headed by Swiatek
R2 Kudermetova or Rogers
R3 First seed Fernandez
QF If seeds hold, Bencic/Muguruza; Azarenka/Serena Williams/Osaka also here
SF If seeds hold, Sakkari/Jabeur; Pliskova/Kasatkina/Kenin/Andreescu/Garcia also here
Bottom half headed by Kontaveit
R2 Venus Williams or Jil Teichmann
R3 First seed Halep
QF If seeds hold, Sabalenka/Gauff; Rybakina also here
SF If seeds hold, Pegula/Badosa; Raducanu/Kvitova/Jelena Ostapenko also here
Update: Azarenka has been forced to withdraw from the Toronto draw because her visa has not been approved by the Canadian authorities.