Laval, Québec – It took four years from when the folks at Tennis Laval were first approached by Tennis Canada to host an ITF-level tournament in their part of the world.
We had to get through a pandemic, and the total cancellation of any and all tournaments in the country, and finally come out the other side before it could happen.
But this week, at Parc Saint-Victor in Laval, Quebec, the first edition finally got under way.
The Canadian content has been off the charts. If you live in the Montreal area and want to see some quality tennis this weekend – headlined by Liam Draxl, who is embarking on a full-time professional career after four standout years at the University of Kentucky – tickets are here and not expensive.
Tough start with the rain
The tournament had a rough start, with the qualifying last Monday having to be moved to a nearby indoor facility, Tennis 13.
But the sun shone on Tuesday, and the organisers had former top-100 Canadian Brayden Schnur on court as the spotlight evening match, following an opening ceremony.
Here’s what the ceremony looked like (with a few camera wiggles and flag … experiences … because of the wind).
Simple, low-key, friendly
When you spend most of the year covering tournaments at the top level, where you practically have to sell your firstborn and book eons in advance to get two minutes with a player, it’s such a refreshing break to be able to just walk around the site and just … TALK to players.
People are happy to talk to you, happy for a little attention and interest at a level without which the big events would not exist. Because all the top players on the ATP Tour went through this level.
It’s a level where you find those who don’t have the fancy kits and the entourages and the sponsorship, and where the more you have, the more people want to give you for free.
(François Godbout, right at the top of that list, is a esteemed retired judge and a former Davis Cup player for Canada who, clearly, continues to support the sport he loves).
Everyone is grinding; the majority of the players in the draw are either college players on summer break, players who have played college tennis who are trying to climb the ranks as pros, or youngsters just getting their first taste of pro-level tennis.
On one court, you can have a player built like a tight end with a booming basso voice. Right next to him, you can have a kid whose voice hasn’t even yet broken.
Sasha Rozin, a 17-year-old from Ontario, made his pro-tennis debut and won his first-round match on Tuesday.
The people who come and watch are tennis lovers. And so are the members of a big corps of volunteers who are doing it because of their love of the sport.
And Canadian Taha Baadi, who was a part of the Tennis Canada high-performance program towards the end of his junior days and made the junior Slam level, is from the area and had a nice fan club out to support him.
That said, even a tournament at this level costs money – well beyond the $25,000 in total prize money. And Laval is a great place to find support for these types of ventures; the tournament was able to go out and get a lot of help to ensure the tournament saw the light of day.
Thursday didn’t help – with flash flooding and awful weather. But with several players having to play doubleheaders on Friday, they got back on schedule.
Here’s a look around the site.
Bicknell wins inaugural event
Blaise Bicknell, a tall 21-year-old from Jamaica who attended the University of Tennessee and just turned pro earlier this summer, was the winner of the tournament. He defeated James Tracy 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
“All week long, the players offered us high-level, quality matches. We’re pleased to have been able to see well-known Lavallois, Québécois and Canadians in action. The future of tennis is thriving, and we’re proud to have contributed to the population getting to know them,” said Claude Farmer, president of the organizing committee.