The past, present and potential future of tennis were on display tonight in an entertaining exhibition match at the Rogers Cup.
Former stars Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles graced the stadium court at the Rexall Centre, joined by 2001 tournament champion Serena Williams and rising Canadian star Aleksandra Wozniak.
Navratilova and Williams earned a 6-3 victory over Seles and Wozniak in the one-set exhibition, in front of an enthusiastic crowd that enjoyed clear skies and balmy temperatures.
The match coincided with Seles’s induction into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame, a fitting honour for the only woman in the last century to win four straight Canadian championships. After the quartet posed for post-match pictures, Seles was honoured on the court and fought back tears as she watched a video tribute highlighting her success in Canada.
She then posed for more photos in front of her Hall of Fame plaque.
“As soon as I got the invitation, I was like, `Yes, I have to do this,”‘ said Seles. “The amazing times that I had here in Toronto . . . I love playing here, so it holds a special place in my heart.”
Prior to the match, the four players met with the media to discuss a number of topics – including Williams’s book “On The Line,” due out Sept. 1. Williams, seeded second at the Rogers Cup, said she learned plenty while she wrote the book – mainly, how bad a sister she was.
“You’ll learn that … being the youngest child, I can’t always get my way, and I was a brat,” said Williams. “When I was writing the book, I didn’t realize how bratty and awful I was. It’s funny to see, as a six- or seven-year-old, all the terrible things I did to (older sister) Venus and all my sisters, and I’m so embarrassed, ’cause they reminded me of how awful I was.”
Navratilova had the most to say. She started by criticizing people who complain that there’s no clear-cut No. 1 in women’s tennis, pointing out that the men’s game used to face the same predicament.
“I find it sort of a double standard,” said Navratilova. “When Chris (Evert) and I were dominating, people were like, `Oh, it’s always Chris and Martina in the finals, we always know who’s going to be there . . . with the men, they have so much depth, you never know who’s going to win.’
“Now you’ve got (Rafael) Nadal, (Roger) Federer winning everything for five years, and the women have been going back and forth, different No. 1s. Now people say `Well with men, we’ve got Federer-Nadal, they’re so great, but with the women, nobody’s dominating.’ I find this double standard really annoying.”
Navratilova also said she’s enjoying her second career as a TV commentator – mostly because it’s easier on the body.
“I like doing the commentary now, seeing it from the other side,” said Navratilova. “It’s much easier talking about it than doing it.
“Also, you don’t have to stretch and warm up, you just show up five minutes before the match and you start talking. It’s very easy. You don’t have to warm down afterwards, either.”
Wozniak, the highest-ranked Canadian player and only singles competitor remaining, reiterated that she doesn’t feel added pressure in her home country.
“I’m definitely proud of being a Canadian, and whenever the time is right, I can win here at home,” said Wozniak. “I’m excited to play.”