Marketa Vondrousova can feel the pressure rising after winning Wimbledon three weeks ago.
Vondrousova, a 24-year-old from the Czech Republic, plays her first tournament since claiming her first Grand Slam title next week at the National Bank Open, which runs through next Sunday.
The expectations heading into this tournament compared to her last aren’t quite the same.
“The expectations are high now from everyone,” she said Friday at a restaurant in Montreal for the National Bank Open women’s singles tournament draw. “I feel like everybody’s gonna expect so much now, but I feel like every match is very tough and yeah, we’ll see how it goes.
“I’m gonna be the target now.”
Vondrousova opens the tournament with a first-round match against Mayar Sherif of Egypt at IGA Stadium.
She was the lowest-ranked player to win at the All England Club, beating No. 4 seed Jessica Pegula and Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina en route to the final, where she beat No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur in straight sets to claim the title.
After having surgery on her left wrist last year, Vondrousova even surprised herself by going on such a run, especially on a grass surface she hadn’t had much prior success on.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “I think my whole team was very surprised … I think (I realized I could win) when I was leading 6-4, 5-4, and I was serving for the match.”
Despite the injury, Vondrousova, also a French Open finalist in 2019, has been in good form since the beginning of the year with a 29-10 singles record.
She says part of the reason for her success was the lack of expectations.
“It’s always tough to come back and you never know if you’re gonna play on that level again,” she said.
As a ninth seed next week, it’s a different story.
Canadians, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., and Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino got some good fortune in the draw and will open play next week against qualifiers.
Andreescu is Canada’s top-ranked player in the tournament as the world No. 44. That number, however, isn’t one the 2019 U.S. Open champion is satisfied with.
“I definitely don’t like seeing that beside my name, and I know that I can be better than that,” said Andreescu, who is 15-15 this year. “My goal at the end of the year is to crack the top 20, hopefully the top 10, but I know that that’s the ranking I’m supposed to be right now.”
Andreescu, who won the tournament in Toronto in 2019, would play No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova in the next round if she wins her first match on Tuesday night.
Fernandez, ranked 88th in the WTA, could play No. 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the next round or Spain’s Paula Badosa.
The 90th-ranked Marino’s next opponent would be sixth-seed American Coco Gauff.
Marino says getting to play a qualifier in the opening round isn’t necessarily an advantage.
“Sometimes it’s difficult because the qualifier has already played some matches, they’ve already gotten a feel for the court,” the 32-year-old said. “But for me, no matter who it is I have to beat them.”
Six more Canadians, including Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard, will have a chance to make the main draw through qualification, which begins Saturday.
The tournament will have its fair share of big names, with 19 of the top 20 WTA players participating after Jabeur pulled out due to injury.
Top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, who won the French Open this year, and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus are among eight players receiving a bye to the second round.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, aged 43, is also in the main draw, as is former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who’s set to play her first match since January 2020 after stepping away from tennis to start a family.
Valerie Tetreault, working her first year as tournament director, says the tournament turnout is a testament to National Bank Open’s reputation in Montreal, especially since the event isn’t mandatory on the WTA circuit until next year.
“The players had to choose Montreal this year, which makes us even more proud of the lineup,” she said. “We owe that to reputation … there’s always a lot of people in the stands here.”
The main draw begins on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2023.