Mon, September 23, 2013

Wozniak, Dubois playing catch-up

By LOUIS BUTCHER, QMI Agency


Aleksandra Wozniak (L) and Stéphanie Dubois. (QMI Agency)


WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - Aleksandra Wozniak and Stephanie Dubois have known each other for many years and spend a lot of time together on and off the tennis court, yet they are not used to teaming up in competition.

The two Quebecers will play side by side in the London Olympics starting tomorrow at the famous Wimbledon complex, the All-England Club.

Dubois and Wozniak were late arriving in the British capital -- their plane was delayed 15 hours in Montreal Monday night -- preventing them from practicing for the first time at Wimbledon until Wednesday morning. They’ve now upped the practice sessions to twice daily, one hour each time.

“Of course, we might be at a disadvantage compared to other teams,” Wozniak said. “But we can rely on knowing each other well.” Wozniak and Dubois will play Yaroslava Shvedova (ranked seventh in the world in doubles) and Galina Voskoboeva Kazakhstan in the first round, likely on Monday.

The Kazakhs have been playing together for a long time and beat Wozniak and her partner Simona Halep from Romania during the Wimbledon tournament earlier this summer. The Canadians will have to overcome that unfamiliarity on the court quickly.

“Stephanie’s ranking forbids her from playing doubles and Aleksandra can only play in Grand Slam tournaments,” coach Sylvain Bruneau explained. “They need to work twice as hard to build bonds. We would have appreciated more training time, but time is scarce here.” Wozniak, ranked 54th in the world, will also take part in the singles tournament. Her first opponent is 46th-ranked Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, who faced her twice in 2008. Each of them won once.

“She’s a good player who I met in junior competitions,” Wozniak said. “I saw her playing in Wimbledon a couple times. She changed her playing style on grass. She tends to attack close to the net after her serve. So I must adapt to this and stay vigilant.” The singles tournament will begin tomorrow, which may force Wozniak to forego the opening ceremony Friday evening.

“The choice is Alexandra’s,” Bruneau said. “Of course, if her game starts at

11 a.m. the next morning, she will probably not take part in the ceremony.” Canada’s men will not have it any easier.

Milos Raonic, ranked 25th, should have no problem beating his Japanese opponent Tatsuma Ito, but if form holds he will face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round. Vasek Pospicil, who was given late entry into singles, will play his very first match against a tough opponent, fifth-ranked Spaniard David Ferrer.

In doubles, Daniel Nestor and Pospicil will respresent Canada against the Romanian pair of Horia Tecau and Adrian Ungur.

The last Olympic tennis medal Canada won, in the 2000 doubles competition, was gold, thanks to Daniel Nestor and Sebastien Lareau’s work in Sydney.