Vancouver’s Pospisil faces familiar foe at French Open
For the first time since 1990, six Canadians have qualified in the men’s and women’s singles draws for Grand Slam
PARIS — They are only a year apart in age, but Canadians Aleksandra Wozniak and Heidi el Tabakh have never played each other on a big stage.
In fact, they haven’t played each other in seven years, since both were teenagers just starting out in small $ 25,000 tournaments. But there is a thing called the law of the draw in tennis. And at this year’s French Open, it decreed the two would meet in the first round on Sunday as the second Grand Slam of the season gets underway. For the first time since 1990, there will be six Canadians in the men’s and women’s singles draws.
El Tabakh was the last one in, the only one of the four players who entered the qualifying event to win three rounds and earn a spot in the main draw.
El Tabakh booked her spot with a 6- 7 ( 5), 6- 4, 6- 2 win over Camila Giorgi of Italy on Friday, overcoming the disappointment of having let a 5- 2 lead slip away in the first set after she had two opportunities to close it out.
“She could play lights out, but I knew she could also hit errors,” said el Tabakh, of Oakville, Ont. For el Tabakh, the reward is that instead of having to leave the Grand Slam atmosphere to return to the reality of a $ 25,000 tournament next week, she’ll earn $ 25,000 just for reaching the main draw. For Wozniak, there is significantly more at stake. The 24- year- old from Blainville, Que., qualified and reached the second round last year.
She’s on the bubble for the Summer Olympics in London in July, and must defend those ranking points here or risk losing a spot. As for top Canadian man Milos Raonic, his seeding of No. 19 guaranteed he could not face one of the top eight players before the fourth round. The law of Raonic’s draw dictated that, should he get there, he would meet the most daunting of the top players on the red clay, defending champion Rafael Nadal.
But before that, the 21- year- old from Thornhill, Ont., must navigate a draw that includes several expert clay- court players, the first of which is 34- yearold veteran Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain. Argentines Carlos Berlocq and No. 13 seed Juan Monaco also stand in the way of a potential date between Raonic and Nadal next weekend.
Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., and Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil also are expected to be in action Sunday. Dubois drew Shahar Pe’er of Israel, a former top- 20 player who defeated Wozniak in this week’s tune- up event in Strasbourg, France.
Pospisil will play Frenchman Edouard Roger- Vasselin. Given he’s a homecountry player, that should ensure Pospisil will be scheduled on a television court so fans back home can see him make his French Open debut.
Unlike most of the ATP Tour players, Roger- Vasselin is a familiar foe. The two met twice in 2011, with RogerVasselin prevailing in the qualifying at Wimbledon and Pospisil exacting his revenge in an indoor hard court at the ATP Tour event in Valencia, Spain last fall. Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., who hasn’t played since injuring his back in the final of a tournament in Florida last month, arrived in Paris on Friday and drew Martin Klizan of Slovakia.
Aleksandra Wozniak, in action at last year’s Vancouver Open, will face fellow Canadian Heidi el Tabakh as the first round of the second Grand Slam of the season gets underway on Sunday.