News from the National Bank Challenger, July 9-17 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. Visit the tournament website:

Sunday Schedule:
10 am – women’s singles final
Not before 12 pm – men’s singles final
Following men’s final – women’s doubles final

Canadian Routliffe Advances To Women’s Final

Erin Routliffe of Caldeon, Ontario will play for the women’s singles title Sunday at the National Bank Challenger at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club after Saturday’s 6-3, 6-2 semifinal win over American Ronit Yurovsky.

“I knew she was super tough,” Routliffe said after her victory over Yurovsky. “I’ve seen her play in college a lot. I just wanted to take control as much as I can and play my game and be the first one to be aggressive.”

Routliffe’s opponent Sunday will be Francesca Di Lorenzo of New Albany, Ohio. Di Lorenzo beat Australia’s Olivia Rogowska 6-4, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

Di Lorenzo said of the matchup against Routliffe: “I know she has a big serve so I got to be ready for that. It’s going to be a lot about serves and returns tomorrow. I think the match is going to be based off of that.”

Erin 2

Player Profile: Olivia Rogowska

In reaching the semifinals in women’s singles at the National Bank Challenger, Olivia Rogowska won three matches in three sets. Her quarterfinal victory came against fellow Australian Lizette Cabrera.

“I’m not really making it easy for myself,” Rogowska said after beating Cabrera 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. “I don’t feel like I’m playing my best tennis but I’m playing the important games and points well.”

Rogowska, who was born and raised in Melbourne, trains at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Florida. She won her first professional singles title at a $25,000 ITF tournament in Sorrento, Australia in 2008 at the age of 17.

Rogowska’s first Grand Slam appearance came in 2009 in her hometown when she earned a wildcard into the Australian Open.

“It’s always fun to play in front of friends of family,” Rogowska, 25, said of the Australian Open. “It’s usually the best atmosphere.”

At the 2009 French Open, Rogowska beat Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-4, 6-4 in the first round. At the time, Kirilenko was ranked No. 47 in the world.

“I was 17 and I just went out and had nothing to lose,” Rogowska recalled. “It’s really easy when you play with nothing to lose. I just remember enjoying every single point and played some really good tennis.”

Also in 2009, Rogowska took world No. 1 Dinara Safina to three sets at the US Open in a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 defeat.

“Obviously that was probably the highlight of my career so far,” said Rogowska. “I was winning in the third set – quite disappointed I didn’t end up winning that match. But the experience of playing on Arthur Ashe against the world No. 1, you don’t get to have that very often. It was pretty amazing.”

Rogowska said the hospitality at the National Bank Challenger has been outstanding.

“There are so many amazing volunteers to keep us happy,” she said. “They work so hard. It’s a great atmosphere having the boys (ATP players) here too.”

Olivia 1

Soeda To Meet Kavcic In Men’s Final

In Sunday’s men’s final, No. 5 seed Go Soeda of Japan will play Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic. Soeda beat No. 6 seed Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 in a Saturday semifinal match.

“My serve wasn’t good in the first set,” Soeda said. “I made changes to my serve and then when I broke his serve (in the second set) it changed (the match). The first set he was unbelievable – I couldn’t do anything.”

Kavcic advanced to the final with a 6-3, 3-2, ret. win over No. 2 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

“I think he (Nishioka) was mentally a little bit off,” said Kavcic, who reached a career-high ATP ranking of No. 68 in August of 2012. “He made it to the top 100 last week. I know how it was when I did it for the first time. This is the big goal in tennis, so when you make top 100 you get a little bit relaxed.”

Last week, Kavcic lost in the first round 6-0, 6-4 to Nishioka at a Challenger in Winnetka, Illinois.

“I knew what to expect and I prepared a little better this time for him,” Kavcic said.

Kavcic is playing in his fourth tournament since being sidelined for eight months due to a broken bone in his foot.

“The last three years I’ve had three surgeries on my feet,” said Kavcic, who reached the third round of the 2013 Australian Open and the 2014 US Open.

Kavcic opened the National Bank Challenger with a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(8) victory over 15-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, runner-up in junior boys’ singles at the French Open.

“Each day here I’ve improved and my body’s also feeling better,” said Kavcic. “It’s much easier to play now. I don’t have to think where to hit the ball – it just (comes) automatically like it did before when I was playing. It’s a good feeling.”

Blaz 2

Player Profile: Yoshihito Nishioka

At No. 100 in the world, Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan went into the National Bank Challenger as the highest ranked player. He didn’t drop a set in capturing the men’s singles title at last week’s Challenger event in Winnetka, Illinois.

“From last week I’m playing very good,” Nishioka said after his 7-6(5), 6-1 quarterfinal win in Winnipeg over Canadian Peter Polansky. “I’m feeling very good for my tennis. My mentality is just to focus on the match.”

Nishioka, who took up tennis at age four, trains both in Japan and at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He’s played in Japan’s last two Davis Cup ties, which for Nishioka included a doubles match (partnering with Yasutaka Uchiyama) against world No. 2 Andy Murray and brother Jamie Murray; the Murrays won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

“I think that was the best experience for me,” Nishioka said of playing the Murray brothers. “We lost, but the important thing is playing that match.”

A big win for Nishioka came in 2014 when he won the men’s singles title at the Asian Games.

“Before the Asian Games (people) didn’t know about me,” he said. “But after I got the gold medal, I got on a TV show and many media (took notice) – a little bit famous after the gold medal.”


Krueger/Nguyen Win Men’s Doubles Title

In Saturday’s men’s doubles final at the National Bank Challenger, the American team of Mitchell Krueger/Daniel Nguyen beat the Australian pair of Jarryd Chaplin/Benjamin Mitchell 6-2, 7-5.

men's doubles
Officials Come From All Over

Long days have been put in by a dedicated group of officials at the National Bank Challenger.

“We’re here from first match to last match,” said Kieron Kennedy, head of officials for Tennis Manitoba.

A total of 11 local officials are working the professional tournament this week. Tennis Manitoba offered an Introduction to Officiating Clinic in May, which was conducted by Anne Bees from Tennis Canada and Winnipeg’s Steve Peers. The officials trained at some of the Tennis Manitoba tournaments this summer to prepare for the National Bank Challenger.

In addition to the Winnipeggers, lines officials from across Canada are working at the event.

“We have (line officials) represented from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec,” Kennedy said. “The chair umpires come from all over the world – India, Israel, Venezuela, Italy. It’s a very international event.”

Mayor Bowman Visits National Bank Challenger

Mayor Brian Bowman tossed the coin for the men’s semifinal match between Blaz Kavcic and Yoshihito Nishioka. He had a courtside seat for the match.

“It’s incredible world-class play and I’m so proud Winnipeg is able to host this,” said Mayor Bowman. “I want to thank everybody involved from the organizers to the volunteers to all those who are involved in tennis here in Manitoba for helping put this on. It’s an incredible thing for Winnipeg to host.”

The National Bank Challenger attracts players and officials from around the world.

“This tournament – like other tournaments like this – is so important because it does put Winnipeg on the map and it lets the world know we’re open for tourism, we’re open for business,” Mayor Bowman said.