|Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his semi-final match against France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, August 13, 2011. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
TORONTO - Tennis fans in Toronto and Montreal might get cheated out of seeing some of the game's biggest stars next year.
And for that they can blame the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Rogers Cup will be in the unenviable position of trying to attract the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to Toronto -- or Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to Montreal -- because both Canadian tournaments will be held the week after the Olympic tennis competition in London.
If Djokovic wins Olympic gold, he'll likely be more inclined to hop on a plane bound for Belgrade, where he would be feted as a national hero, rather than Toronto. Really think he would worry about being fined for skipping one of the ATP circuit's manadatory events?
That said, Karl Hale, the Rogers Cup tournament director in Toronto, feels a lousy field in 2012 won't become an issue.
"We've been working for approximately a year with the ATP tour on our event," Hale said. "We think things will work out really well. We have been in contact with the players, and we are a mandatory event, so we're looking for a very strong field."
The Rogers Cup, men and women, has been forced to tweak the format due to the Olympic tournament, though.
The field will be pared from 56 to 48, with all the 16 seeds receiving a first-round bye and the final in Toronto will be held on the Sunday night to avoid clashing with the Olympic closing ceremony. The women's tourney in Montreal will start play on the Tuesday, a day later than normal.
"If you're a seeded player, that will mean you potentially might not have to play until Thursday," WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said. "That gives the athletes, if you're in the gold-medal match, from Saturday night to Thursday to be able to travel and transition and go from grass to hard (court)."
But the question remains: Will the stars bother to show up?