MONTREAL — The centre court action at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open women’s tennis championships heats up Monday with an appearance by a high-profile Quebec player.
And it’s not Eugenie Bouchard.
The second match of the 6 p.m. session will feature Blainville’s Aleksandra Wozniak, who hopes to continue her impressive comeback from a shoulder injury when she plays American Sloane Stephens.
The last time the women were in Montreal in 2012, Wozniak put together a string of upsets to reach the quarterfinals. She beat Daniela Hantuchova, Jelena Jankovic and Christina McHale before losing to Caroline Wozniacki.
Wozniak, who reached a career-high No. 21 in 2009, was close to regaining a spot in the top 40 after her run in Montreal, but she strained her shoulder a month later during a training session at the Bell Challenge event in Quebec City. The injury required long months of rehab and her ranking fell as low as No. 386.
“It was very frustrating because ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a professional tennis player,” said the 26-year-old Wozniak. “I worked very hard to get back on the court with the physios here (at the national training centre). I was told there was only a 45-per-cent chance of avoiding surgery but I did it.”
With the shoulder close to full strength, Wozniak said she has been working with coach Nathalie Tauziat on getting more power into her game.
“I’ve been working on my serve because that’s where you can win some free points and I’m trying to be more aggressive with my returns,” Wozniak said.
Wozniak came into the season at No. 288 and she has climbed to No. 101.
“My goal coming into the season was to get back into the top 100 and then the top 50 by the end of the year,” Wozniak said. “I’m happy with my progress so far.”
Stephens, who is ranked No. 22, will present a good test for Wozniak. The two have met three times, with the American holding a 2-1 edge. Wozniak was an easy winner in Florida in 2010 and they went the distance at Indian Wells in 2012 with Stephens winning a third-set tiebreaker. In their most recent meeting last fall, Stephens was a straight-set winner as Wozniak was launching her comeback.
Bouchard, who is the fifth seed, has a bye in the first round and will be on centre court Tuesday against the winner of a match between wild-card Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia and qualifier Shelby Rogers.
This is Bouchard’s first tournament since she reached the final at Wimbledon and she is looking forward to getting back into action. She acknowledged playing in her hometown is special, but she’s trying to treat this tournament like any other stop on the WTA Tour. She’s staying in a hotel with the other players, but there’s one hint that Bouchard wants every edge possible. Her longtime coach Nick Saviano is here and he usually ventures from his Florida home only for major events.
If form holds, Bouchard’s quarter-final opponent will be top-ranked Serena Williams, who won the Bank of the West title Sunday in California. Bouchard declined to speculate on the possible matchup.
“We’re not there yet,” Bouchard said. “I still have some tough matches ahead of me.” That includes a possible match against former No. 1 player Wozniacki in the third round.
Bouchard came into the year with the goal of reaching the top 20 and advancing to a Grand Slam final and she has done both.
“Now that I’m No. 6, I guess my new goal is top 5, but the number isn’t as important as knowing that I finish the year as a better player than when I started,” Bouchard said.
The evening session Monday will begin with 17-year-old Montrealer Françoise Abanda playing 10th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. It will be a tough test for the junior wild card who’s counting on a push from the hometown crowd.
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