MONTREAL - It could be the hot weather, or the lure of the Olympics, but there have been plenty of empty seats this week during the first two rounds of the Rogers Cup.
Attendance for the women's tournament typically lags behind that of the men's event, but crowds this year are even thinner than usual.
Through the first five days, total attendance at Uniprix Stadium stood at 47,347.
Compare that with the 53,815 spectators whose tickets were punched in the same period in 2010, the last time the world's top women players graced this city.
Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre rejects the notion that tennis fans are at home watching water polo rather than getting an up-close look at 12 of the world's top 13 players, the absentee being Serena Williams.
He figures that unseasonably warm weekend weather skewed the numbers.
"It was just too warm for anybody to think 'I'm going to sit in a seat for the whole afternoon,' " said Lapierre, who points out that pre-sales are even with 2010.
He also lamented the time-honoured practice of corporations buying up blocks of seats and handing them to clients who don't show up.
"To me, it's a sin," said the longtime tennis executive and promoter. "But anyway, it's something every tournament is caught with."
Lapierre also points out that the interactive games, kiosks and snack stands have been packed with fans who spend as much as six hours at the stadium on a given day.
Open player practices remain a popular attraction, though scheduling issues meant organizers haven't been able to tell fans in advance which top players will be going through their paces.
A rain delay led to match cancellations on the final day of the second round, but Lapierre said he expected strong crowds for the home stretch.
"When you have a good match, the feature match, we're the stadium on the women's tour that fills it the most in the world."