Fans congregated at IGA Stadium for a free practice session hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite tennis stars as the Rogers Cup got underway on Saturday.

Among the players taking part in this year’s tournament are hometown favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime and fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

“I’d be lying if I said I just go on the court and it feels like any other tournament,” said Auger-Alisassime. “It feels special and hopefully I can use that kind of energy and support in a good way.”

Shapovalov said the Montreal crowds helped him achieve his breakthrough in 2017.

“It’s a nice warm feeling to be back in a place like this where you’re really loved and you have a lot of people,” he said. “You feel the city behind your back. The memories are really great from this tournament.”

Tournament officials were disappointed when Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic announced they would skip the event but world number two Rafael Nadal is in town, ready to defend his title. Many fans lined up to catch a glimpse of his two-hour practice and others waited an hour outside to score an autograph.

Still other fans settled in to just enjoy the tennis. Victoria Wong and her family have watched every tournament from the same seats for more than 20 years.

“I’ve been coming since I was born,” she said. “Very honestly, every year we sit down right here and spend a week here.”