By Blair Henley
When tact-challenged tournament director Eugene Lapierre denied Ana Ivanovic a main-draw wildcard for the Rogers Cup in Montreal next week, you could say he counted his seeds before they sprouted. Now with Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Samantha Stosur and possibly Venus Williams out with injuries, Lapierre is backtracking – unsuccessfully.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette last month, Lapierre explained his decision to relegate Ivanovic (the 2006 Rogers Cup champion) to the qualifying rounds, giving the remaining wild card to Canadian No. 2 Stephanie Dubois instead.
“The way I analyzed it was that, yes, she’s a player who has done a lot for our tournament -almost saved it one year. She has a lot of charisma. Everyone likes her. But the fact is that she hasn’t demonstrated (with her play) that she deserves a wild card,” he said. “It’s not the same as a player who has been injured and away for a while. … She is the one who dropped down to No. 65, not because of an injury.”
And it gets worse.
“If we didn’t already have the best players in the world, if we didn’t get all the players we think we can get, my choice would certainly be for the wild cards to go to international players, because you want to sell the attraction,” Lapierre said. “But we have them, so it’s normal to give the chance to young players.”
He even went as far as to say, “If I were her coach, I would force her to play qualies.”
Now, just under a month later, the tides have turned. Several seeds have withdrawn from the tournament, and Ivanovic pulled off a major upset over world No. 12 Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati earlier this week.
But never fear, Lapierre knew exactly what to say:
“There’s still a chance,” he said on Tuesday about giving Ivanovic a main-draw wild card. “Especially now that she’s showing us she still plays like a top-10. We’re looking at it and there should be developments soon.”
Loose-Lips Lapierre did, in fact, offer that wild card to Ivanovic. And she promptly refused it.
“I would have loved to have played in Montreal, but I was quite hurt by the comments of Mr. Lapierre that I was shown in the Montreal Gazette recently,” she wrote on her website. “I don’t think his comments were necessary, and they contradicted everything he had told my management previously: that I was not getting a wild card because I am not Canadian.”
Apparently Lapierre needs to be reminded that the internet allows people to read your hometown newspaper even if they don’t live in your hometown.
“The fact that my original request [for a wildcard] was turned down isn’t really an issue,” she continued. “I would have been happy to play qualifying, but I felt that they kind of stepped over the line with this interview, making public our correspondence and even misrepresenting it. Unfortunately I don’t feel welcome at this tournament.”
Can you blame her?
Even without playing in Montreal, Ivanovic will have played four out of the five weeks leading up to the U.S. Open, so the move shouldn’t disrupt her preparation for the Grand Slam tournament. For now, she can focus on playing in Cincinnati.
As for Lapierre, let’s hope he sticks with the “less is more” approach during future press interviews.