By Mike McIntyre
On a perfect summer morning at Kew Gardens, Toronto's most picturesque Tennis Club, three athletes who have a profound impact on the Canadian sports scene got together to raise some money for charity and promote the upcoming Rogers Cup. Canadian No. 1 Genie Bouchard along with reigning NHL MVP Connor McDavid and Blue Jays All-Star pitcher Aaron Sanchez got together for a friendly competition that saw them face each other in a slew of cross-sport challenges.
Things started out fairly tame with McDavid admitting that, "I'm not much of a trash talker." Once the competitive juices got flowing however there was some good-natured ribbing amongst the three that got some laughs from the crowd.
Evanka Osmak from SportsNet acted as co-MC of the event with her sidekick Ken Reid and asked, "Genie if you were to play doubles in tennis with either of these guys, which one would it be?"
"I would pick neither of them!" the tennis star replied without hesitation.
The event comprised a hockey shootout drill that surprisingly was but narrowly won by the Edmonton Oilers superstar. Despite Genie Bouchard claiming she had never held a hockey stick - curious for a girl who grew-up in the hockey obsessed market of Montreal - she managed to put 22 balls in the net. McDavid finished up with 24 while Sanchez (an American) came a distant third with a mere 3 goals scored in the 60 seconds allowed.
Other events that put to use baseball, hockey and tennis skills tested the three professional athletes balance and co-ordination and kept the crowd entertained. In the end it was Bouchard who emerged victorious and saw her donate the grand prize of $5,000 to her charity of choice - the Montreal Children's Hospital.
Later the three spoke with a fairly large media scrum who were present and the questions immediately focused on Bouchard and her thoughts on playing at her nation's biggest tennis event where she has but once made the round of 16 in her six previous appearances.
"I’m really looking forward to coming to play in Canada," she explained. "I don’t get to play here that much it’s like once a year so its always extra special to play in front of my Canadian fans."
In contrast to her playful attitude during the "competition" with McDavid and Sanchez, Bouchard's generic answers in press came off rather scripted. Chalk it up to a busy week of promotional activities for the 23 year-old that included an exhibition match against Venus Williams in Atlanta, a Toronto Argo's game and appearances for sponsors like Coca-Cola and Rogers of course as well.
Kudos to Bouchard for being engaged with the kids who were present to watch and for signing a large number of autographs when her media obligations were done. She does seem quite genuine with her fans and mentioned how being a role model is a privilege to her.
"If ever I do inspire any one person it’s always an honour. I love seeing kids start playing tennis and just being active playing any sport really, just getting outside you know? That stuff that’s such an amazing thing. So if I’m a small part of that it’s an honour."
One funny exchange between the three athletes worth noting is the following in response to a question posed to Genie about how she was feeling physically:
Q: How are you feeling physically heading into the hard court season?
GB: Don’t you want to ask them questions? (laughter)
CM: It feels great. My hardcourt game is great. It’s really nice.
AS: She’s prepared.
EB: Yeah, they know, they’re my PR people.
AS: Her drive has been unbelievable, she’s ready to go.
CM: I’m sure you saw, she’s the best athlete here so she’s gotta be the favourite, right?
Check out some of our pictures from the event below. Qualifying action begins at the Aviva Centre in Toronto the weekend of August 5th with main draw matches beginning on August 7th. Check back with us regularly for extensive lead-up coverage and throughout the event as well. You can also follow us on Twitter for timely updates.
Bouchard arriving to a round of typically polite tennis applause from those at Kew Gardens.
It looked more like Bouchard was teeing-up for a golf swing than a hockey shot during the shoot-out competition.
Basking in the glory of winning one of the five events on the schedule.
Hard to tell whose grip was worse - McDavid's on a tennis racquet or Bouchard's on the hockey stick.
Aaron Sanchez seemed to handle Bouchard's barbs with a smile while McDavid wasn't quite sure what to make of it in this photo.
The greatest male hockey player in Canada head-to-head with our best female tennis player...in a ball toss.
Thankfully for the other 30 NHL teams, the Oilers only have one Connor McDavid in real life.
A successful day that culminated in $5,000 for the Montreal Children's Hospital.