Canadian Open woos ladies

GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

The history of Canadian tennis championship reaches back to the 1800s and has hosted some of the world's greatest male and female players.

Australian superstar Rod Laver and his sidekicks Ken (Muscles) Rosewall and John Newcombe, Czech star Ivan Lendl, England's Fred Perry and Americans John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, among others, have played here.

The same has been true on the distaff side as the ladies prepare to kick off their event today at the Rexall Centre.

Some of the big names that have participated in past Canadian championships are: The great Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Carling Bassett-Seguso and Steffi Graf.

Still, during those years, few innovations refreshed the annual over-the-webbing event with the exception of increased appearance fees to star players.

Until this year that is. The combination of Tennis Canada's agile trio -- president Michael Downey, rookie tournament director Karl Hale and media chief Mike Cvitkovic -- came up with several interesting events which will make tennis fans and the women players happier this year.

"Probably the biggest hit among the ladies is the Aveda Spa," Hale said. "It takes up about a third of the players lounge and offers the women manicures, pedicures, facials and hair-styling. (Today's) hours are all booked.

"Then, for the next three days, we will run a fashion show featuring the history of women's tennis fashions from the early 1900s until today, including a spoof on John McEnroe which, I think, John might like.

"Also, we will have a celebrity show, which we started last year. Some of the celebrities include Jim Cuddy of the Blue Rodeo group, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, Nik Antropov of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Susur Lee, Canada's top chef."

However, the best-selling show of today's opening round is the Legends Night featuring a fun mixed doubles exhibition with McEnroe, Courier, Bassett-Seguso and Anna Kournikova.

On the serious side of this event, McEnroe and Bassett-Seguso will be inducted into Canada's tennis Hall of Fame on Centre Court.

What about the standard of play with no-shows Maria Sharapova, who also withdrew from the semi-final in Los Angeles on the weekend, Amelie Mauresmo, Martina Hingis and the Williams sisters?

"We have five of the world's top six players in Justine Henin (No. 1), Jelena Jankovic (3), Ana Ivanovic (4), Svetlana Kuznetsova (5) and the hottest female player on the tour, Anna Chakvetadze (6).

"Incidentally, Chakvetadze has won two of her past three tournaments and finished second in the other."

With all the new events, the top seeds and the huge interest in this city for the event, more history should be made this week.


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