Friday, 19 July 2013

Pro tennis returns to Winnipeg

Heidi El Tabakh is the top ranked Canadian, and 5th seed
in the 2013 CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger.
(Photo courtesy of Tennis Canada)

Article courtesy of Tennis Canada

The inaugural CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger, an ITF Pro Circuit event taking place at the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club from July 20 to 28, is getting ready to hit its first ball. Added to the Canadian professional calendar this year, the $25K Challenger has become the sixth pro-level women’s event in the country in 2013, and the first in Winnipeg since 2000.

The top-ranked Canadian in the main draw will be Toronto’s Heidi El Tabakh. Holding a No. 262 world ranking, the Egyptian-born El Tabakh took home two titles from Jackson and Pelham in 2012 after not wining any since 2009. Recently, she made the quarter-finals at three Challengers in a row – Sacramento, Las Cruces, and El Paso.

While El Tabakh is the only Canadian who received direct entry into the main draw, a few others will be receiving wild cards into the event. Sonja Molnar, Wendy Zhang, and Carol Zhao will take their places in the main draw, while 22-year old Elisabeth Fournier, who recently participated in the main draws at the Granby and Waterloo Challengers, could be joining them. Several others will try to earn a spot through the qualifying tournament.

Seeded No. 1 will be England’s Johanna Konta. Ranked world No. 139 and coached by Canada’s own Louis Cayer, Konta won her last title at Rancho Mirage in 2012 and made it to the semifinals at Nottingham in early June. Also from the UK is No. 3 Samantha Murray, who earned her sole title at Glasgow in 2012, but is still alive in the $25K Granby event in Quebec taking place this week – she will play her semifinal match on Saturday. Seeded between the two Brits is Australian Olivia Rogowska, who won her ninth title at Burnie early in 2013 and also made it to the quarter-finals at Granby.

On top of the exciting draw that will be played out over the week, the CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger will also be hosting social events like the Sharon Pollock Classic Tennis and Fashion show on Monday July 22, with all proceeds benefiting cancer research and patient support. A Kids Zone with tennis equipment will also be provided for younger spectators.

General admission to the first annual CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger is free, but spectators are able to purchase lounge seats during the semifinals for $15 or during the final for $20. Fans outside of Winnipeg can follow live scoring of matches at www.tenniscanada.com. For more information on the CIBC Wood Gundy Challenger, please visit www.winnipegchallenger.com.