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

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - BY STEPHANIE MYLES

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.

GERRY KAHRMANN/ PNG FILES

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.

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