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I like sports....lots of sports...all sports!  Follow my blog as I talk about sports....if you like sports of course

Monday, 8 December 2014

Hello Ladies...Welcome to the Canadian Open Grand Slam
Yorkton opens its doors to top Men and Women teams

The Grand Slam season continues this week as the best teams from around the world arrive in Yorkton, Saskatchewan for the Canadian Open.  For the first time, the ladies will be joining the men for this grand slam event.  I like the idea of having both gender's curling at the same grand slam events and trying to mirror the grand slam season as best as possible.  The real hiccup I see with this event is the timing.  Many of these teams were just competing at the Canada Cup.  For those top teams invited to participate, they barely got off the ice before hitting the road for another event.  Take the finalists from yesterday's Canada Cup: Teams McEwen, Jacobs, Sweeting and Homan.  They just finished an event yesterday and need to be in Yorkton by Tuesday.  There is little to no time to relax and rest in between big events.  Now I know these are high-performance athletes and I don't think the level of play will diminish but in fairness, the CCA and WCT might want to take a better look at scheduling!

Ok enough complaining.  This blog is more about praising and previewing events rather than looking at the negatives.  One big note on this event is the format.  In previous grand slam events we have seen a round robin pool format with the top 8 teams overall making the playoffs.  This event will be different.  Keeping with a format more common on tour, this will be a triple knockout with A, B and C brackets.  We will still see 8 teams qualify for the playoffs of course.  I think the triple format really gives an advantage to a team who starts strong from the beginning.  If you can win one of the two A qualifying spots, you give yourself some time off and do not have to go through the grind of B or C.  As well, in a round robin format, you sometimes see one or two teams run away with their pool only to have to play one or two meaningless games near the end of the round robin before the playoff round.  The triple knockout event places extra importance on each game and adds a bit of a buzz and competitive energy through the teams and the fans in every draw.  There are no meaningless games!

Let's start our preview with the women!  A full preview of the men's draw will be posted shortly.

WOMEN

As mentioned this will be the first time the women have competed in this event.  This will also be the final grand slam event for the ladies until the Player's Championship in April, well after provincial playdowns and the Scotties.  For many of these top teams, this is their last major event before the start the grueling road to the Scotties.  The three previous grand slam events have had three different winners with Jennifer Jones (Autumn Gold Curling Classic in October), Val Sweeting (Masters in October/November) and Eve Muirhead (Colonial Square Ladies Classic in November) all besting their competition to grab a grand slam trophy.  Can one of these winners add to their season hardware or will we see yet another different winner over the weekend?

The Favorites

Team Val Sweeting (4 Order of Merit / 2 YTD ranking) - How can you not name them favorites for this event?  They are coming off a huge Canada Cup victory this past weekend where they will see many of the top teams they just beat.  They will be challenged of course with a deeper field, including the top European teams who have been resting since the Euro Championships.  The big question mark here is will fatigue sit in?  Will the emotions from Sunday's win carry over and help them or hurt them?

Team Binia Feltscher (7/6) - The defending world champions enter this event as newly crowned European Champions.  Current World and Euro Champs....yup I would say they are a HUGE threat to win this event.  They have been very successful in grand slam events this past season as well.  With much of the focus being directed towards the top Canadian teams (Jones, Homan, Sweeting) and considered "bigger name" Euro teams (Muirhead), the quiet Swiss team could just steal another win.

Watch Out For

Team Rachel Homan (2/3) -  Team Homan is coming off a tough loss in the Canada Cup final to Sweeting.  It has been a weird season for the Homan clan.  Strong consistent results week in and week out only to suffer disappointing losses in semi-finals and finals (3 runner-up finishes now).  No wins this season could start taking a mental toll on the two-time defending Canadian champs.  Can they finally pull out a W?

Team Eve Muirhead (3/4) - The Scottish champs come back to Canada ice looking to add another grand slam title to their resume.  A 3rd place finish at the Euro championships was probably a bit disappointing but the result is a positive outlook heading into Yorkton.  That shocking quick exit at the Masters seems like ages ago now.  This team has all the credentials to be a threat and is probably one of the biggestnon-Canadian fan favorite teams.

Team Jennifer Jones (1/1) - The #1 team in the world, the Olympic champs, multiple grand slam titles, multiple Scotties wins...the resume goes on and on.  Always a threat, people may be questioning the team mentality entering this week after the out of sorts play at the Canada Cup.  Was last weekend just a hiccup in the road or a bigger dent in the Jones armor than they would want their competition to believe? 

The Dark Horse

Team Chelsea Carey (15/18) - So how has the big off-season move to Alberta been working for Chelsea Carey?  I guess it depends who you ask.  Chelsea and her new team are not having a great season but not a bad season either.  Did people maybe put too much pressure and expectations on her right out of the gate based on last season's results?  Perhaps!  She is playing with a brand new team remember.  I read a quote from Chelsea where she mentioned there are growing pains with a new team but she is quite happy with the progress they are making as a team.  I think that is a positive step in the right direction.  Let's also take note, this team does have 2 WCT event wins this season (remember Homan has none!).  The hard comments on Team Carey may have more to do with the success of Sweeting and Nedohin right now and how competitive Alberta is as a province.  This would be the perfect event to turn aside the doubters though and make their mark on a big event.  Plus I am sure Chelsea would like to put the disappointment of the Masters behind her.

Team Chantelle Eberle (23/24) - We cannot have an event in Saskatchewan and not mention a SK team!  With Sherry Anderson skipping this event, Team Eberle is probably the best chance the home province has at seeing Team Green in the playoffs.  They are a long shot yes, but they have had some strong results on tour this season.  A win in Saskatoon and qualifying at the Canad Inns Women's Classic have shown this team can compete with the big names.  Can they ride the home province fan support to a few upset wins and be playing on the weekend? 

Qualifiers: Team Sweeting, Team Fletscher, Team Homan, Team Jones, Team Muirhead, Team Carey, Team Nedohin, Team Tirinzoni

CHAMPIONSHIP: Team Binia Feltscher over Team Eve Muirhead - Probably not going to be the most popular final for an event in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada to see Switzerland vs Scotland.  With all due respect to the Russian ladies, this was the Euro final most in the sport were hoping for.  Unfortunately for Canadian curling fans, these two teams have strong momentum on their side.  Team's Homan and Sweeting are going to have fatigue working against them, plus Homan seems to have hit a championship round mental brick wall.  Both Feltscher and Muirhead have had some rest and time to prepare.  Curling fans should not be disappointed though if this prediction is correct, this will be a classic final...perhaps a preview of the 2015 World Championship final even?  The World Champ/Euro Champs are full of confidence right now!

SIDENOTE:  I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to many of the teams on the tour (Sweeting, Homan, Feltscher to name a few) who have been very supportive of my small blog posts.  I truly appreciate the RT and Favs.  For those not following most of the teams on twitter, I highly recommend it.  These athletes truly engage and interact with their fans.  Also, you really appreciate the comradery of the sport when you see the athletes interact with one another on twitter all the time.  There is a great respect shown for competitors, friends, fans and the sport in general!