Neena Channan is a journalist, photographer and correspondent for Jornal de Toronto at the National Bank Open by Rogers in Toronto
The National Bank Open by Rogers, formerly known as the Rogers Cup held last week will be known for three major events.
- Beatriz (Bia) Haddad Maia making Brazilians and South Americans proud.
- Serena Williams – arguably one of the best tennis players ever – announcing that she will be retiring after the US Open this year.
- Simona Halep and Coco Gauff.
Beatriz (Bia) Haddad Maia
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 26 years ago, this 6-foot tall, left-handed tennis player with a winning smile announced her arrival in Toronto with a lot of noise (thanks to the Brazilian fans) and a determination that was easy to see.
One year ago, she was ranked 184th in the world, a year later, she arrived in Toronto ranked 24th and by the time she left, she had moved up to 16th in the world. That is quite a feat for anybody. But for a young lady from Brazil, a country known for its soccer more than its tennis players, it’s been an incredible journey.
In Toronto, Haddad Maia started her journey by getting past Martina Trevisan of Italy in the round of 64. Next up was Canada’s top ranked Leylah Fernandez, who was also dispatched after a hard-fought battle. In the round of 16, Haddad Maia faced the world #1: Iga Swiatek of Poland. However, on this day, Haddad Maia could not be held back, and she moved forward to the quarter finals. In the quarterfinals, she faced Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, an Olympic gold medalist who she knocked out. At the semi-finals, she faced last year’s runner up Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Pliskova was no match for Haddad Maia. For the finals, Haddad Maia faced Simona Halep of Romania. Halep a two-time winner of the National Bank Open eventually triumphed over Haddad Maia taking her third win of this tournament. Haddad Maia had a tough draw for the entire tournament, but she triumphed all the way to the finals.
Haddad Maia played an aggressive game which she attributes to her wins all week long. The support provided by the Brazilian fans provided her with confidence. In her words “I think Brazilians are not used to screaming for tennis. Sometimes they scream a little bit more. They think they are in a soccer game. It’s funny because everybody wants to give me the energy. And I was happy to hear a lot of Bia’s: come on Bia, vamos Bia, keep fighting”.
For the finals game of the tournament, it was a regular contest between who was louder, the Brazilians or the Romanians. Both countries were very well represented.
Haddad Maia became the first Brazilian (male or female) in over 20 years to reach the semi-finals. Gustavo (Guga) Kuerten was the last. She dedicated her second-place finish to her dad and grandad as this past Sunday was Father’s Day in Brazil. Looking forward to seeing and hearing from Haddad Maia in the future.
What can I write about Serena Williams that hasn’t already been written by others?
She has been number 1 in the rankings for 319 weeks straight, has won 23 grand slam titles, is known the world over and has inspired many people. In fact, many of the current players when asked who their inspiration has been inevitably mentioned Serena Williams.
At 40 years of age, she has been playing longer than some of the other players have been alive!
This past week, Williams announced her retirement, which will take effect after the US Open (August 29-September 11, 2022). She spoke about wanting to spend time with her daughter and doing other things. As she put it “these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.” Her priorities have changed.
Toronto has been a special place for Williams, she has played here and been a visitor to the city. It’s the place she had her daughter Olympia, sitting with her dad, Alexis Ohanian’s lap, watch her on court for a full match for the first time. Creating a memory for Olympia. The send-off Toronto fans gave her made it obvious that Toronto loves her too.
In her career, she has earned 73 singles titles, four Olympic gold medals and $94 million (US) in prize money. She has been an inspiration. She will be missed.
Simona Halep and Coco Gauff
Simona Halep – three-time National Bank Open winner has found her mojo again. Halep was going for her 19th WTA 1000 title. She got it. She has now broken Serena Williams record. This petite Romanian gave Beatriz Haddad Maia quite the run in the final game. A powerhouse with amazing muscular strength despite her size. She’s now dreaming for more.
Cori “Coco” Gauff, all of 18 years old is ranked 12th in singles, but on the doubles side after winning the tournament with her partner, fellow American Jessica Pegula against Nicole Melichar-Martinez (USA) and Ellen Perez (Australia), Gauff moves up to #1 in doubles.
What a week of tennis!