It's not that bad, really

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Sure, Karl Hale had high hopes of seeing Maria Sharapova help make this week's Rogers Cup a smashing success and what local tennis fan didn't?

But in the back of his mind, the tournament director for the women's event, which gets under way today at the Rexall Centre, knew it wasn't likely to happen.

That's one reason the striking face of women's tennis didn't appear in any advertisements for the tourney, which once again has been stripped of late withdrawals by big names.

"(Sharapova) is a creature of habit," Hale said yesterday during a rain delay in qualifying for the main draw.

"She played San Diego then L.A. last year and won the U.S. Open so she was going to follow the same pattern this year."

Losing Venus Williams and Sharapova as well as Amelie Mauresmo in the days leading up to the event brought back bad memories of last year's withdrawals in Montreal.

But with strong ticket sales and five of the top six ranked women players in the world still scheduled to compete, Hale believes the gloom is a little overblown.

Criticism over Sharapova's withdrawal was harsh, even though she withdrew from the semi-final of an event in Los Angeles on Saturday because of a shin injury.

In reality, though, the world's No. 2-ranked woman player and healthy fan favourite never made any bold promises she would make it to the York University facility this week.

After playing back-to-back weeks in California, and with the U.S. Open two weeks away, she may have been a long shot to come here in the first place.

"As I previously indicated to the Rogers Cup, I entered the event on the basis that my participation depended on my health and performance this summer," Sharapova wrote on her website this weekend.

NO ADVERTISING

"This is the reason that I asked the tournament not to include me in their advertising which, to their credit, they did not do."

Even without Sharapova or anyone named Williams, this is not a field as weak as the recent Canadian Open men's golf tournament, for example.

Headed by top seed Justine Henin of Belgium, the depth at the top end all but ensures a number of top players will be around in the deeper rounds.

"We are very happy with the player field and we thing we are going to have a very successful week," Hale said.


Videos

Photos