TORONTO - There could be some intriguing early-round matchups at the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament next week at Rexall Centre.
With a few star players saddled with lower rankings as they come back from injuries, Friday afternoon's draw could provide some drama. Grand Slam winners Serena and Venus Williams are not seeded for the tournament and could conceivably meet in the first round.
Defending champion and world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki headlines the women's field while Andy Murray will try to win a third straight men's title. The men's draw also features ATP Tour heavyweights Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal while Wozniacki is joined by fellow women's stars like Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Li Na.
Sharapova, who fell down the rankings when she battled injuries a few years ago, has climbed back into the top 10. She said the WTA Tour is so deep right now that every match can be a tough test — especially when top unseeded players provide the opposition early on.
"It (creates) great matchups and early surprise matches," Sharapova said Thursday on a conference call. "It's interesting in a way. Of course we would like the bigger matches to be in the later stages of the tournament but it's the way it is. There's nothing that we can really do about that."
The fifth-ranked Sharapova doesn't have to worry about a potential Venus or Serena matchup until the second round at the earliest as the top eight seeds in both draws get first-round byes. The men will play at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal this year while the women are in Toronto.
Tournament organizers plan to unveil the men's draw first, immediately followed by the women's draw. The tours alternate cities each year but this is the first time that both tournaments will be played over the same week in a virtual combined format.
Dozens of television screens have been set up at both stadium sites so that fans can watch matches at the other venue. The TV broadcast will bounce between cities to feature matches from both tournaments.
The men's draw is missing rising star Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., who is recovering from hip surgery. The young Canadian will work as an analyst for broadcaster Rogers Sportsnet.
In Toronto, the Rogers Legends Cup has been added to the event schedule this year. It will feature former greats Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Michael Chang competing in a mini-tournament following the semifinals and final next weekend.