Eugenie Bouchard to face Lucie Safarova in the first round of the Montreal Rogers Cup

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Eugenie Bouchard to face Lucie Safarova in the first round of the Montreal Rogers Cup
Eugenie Bouchard to face Lucie Safarova in the first round of the Montreal Rogers Cup

If hometown favourite Genie Bouchard is going to make a run at the Rogers Cup next week, she'll have to get past a significant hurdle from the get-go.

The 22-year-old from Westmount, Que. drew Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic for her first-round match, already scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Fellow Montrealers Aleksandra Wozniak and Françoise Abanda, both in the main draw on wild cards, fared a little better. Wozniak will play Italy's Sara Errani, better known for her prowess on the clay courts although she is a solid player on any surface. At a career high of No. 5 two years ago, Errani currently is ranked No. 25.

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The 19-year-old Abanda, who lost to junior Usue Arconada at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, will meet Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the first round.

As with Errani, Svitolina's ranking has dropped a little (from a career best of No. 14 in March to No. 20 this week). She missed being seeded by one spot.

"There was a little worry with the Olympic year, and we’re two weeks earlier (than usual), close to Wimbledon, which just ended. But the female professionals have responded," tournament director Eugene Lapierre said at the draw ceremony. "We have 9 of the top 10, 17 of the top 20. We’re going to have quite a tournament this year."

Safarova, ranked a career high No. 5 after last year's US Open, has struggled since with a virus that sapped her energy and scuttled her schedule for more than six months. She even missed the Australian Open. She reached the fourth round of Wimbledon a few weeks ago, and won her home-country tournament on clay in Prague in May, but has lost in the first round of seven of her 10 other tournaments this season.

On the plus side, after being without coach Rob Steckley (a Torontonian) since the French Open, the two are reunited in Montreal.

Bouchard made the acquaintance of Safarova coach Rob Steckley's new baby girl two years ago at Indian Wells, with Safarova looking on. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
Bouchard made the acquaintance of Safarova coach Rob Steckley's new baby girl two years ago at Indian Wells, with Safarova looking on. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

Bouchard and Safarova had met just once before; coincidentally, it also came in Quebec, at the WTA tournament in Quebec CIty in the fall of 2013. Safarova won that one in three sets.

The Abanda vs. Svitolina match is a rematch of their 2012 Wimbledon girls' singles semifinal. Abanda was 15 then, Svitolina 17 (and already a French Open junior champion at age 15). Abanda led in the third set but Svitolina's greater experience won out; that's how close that 2012 Wimbledon girls' final came to being an all-Canadian affair.

Since then, Svitolina has risen quickly, while Abanda is still struggling to establish herself at the top level of the pros.

Some of the first-round matches to watch out for, in addition to Safarova-Bouchard:

-No. 10 seed Madison Keys vs. Wimbledon semi-finalist Elena Vesnina

-Caroline Garcia vs. Barbora Strycova

-Alizé Cornet vs. Andrea Petkovic

The top eight seeds, including Venus and Serena Williams, have first-round byes.

If the seeds hold, the potential quarter-final matchups would be as follows:

[1] Serena Williams vs. [8] Carla Suárez Navarro

[4] Agnieszka Radwanska vs. [6] Venus Williams

[3] Garbiñe Muguruza vs. [5] Simona Halep

[2] Angelique Kerber vs. [7] Roberta Vinci

A dangerous spoiler in there could be Petra Kvitova, who is slated to be Halep's third-round opponent if both get through. 

A third-round between Americans Keys and Venus Williams would be a crowd-pleaser, as well.

It all begins with the qualifying, which starts Saturday morning.

(If you want to relive the whole thing, Tennis Canada Periscoped the draw ceremony)

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