The Canadian Open tennis tournament was first played in 1881 for the men and in 1892 for the women. In 1981, Ivan Lendl won the centennial Player's International Canadian Open men's championships. And in 1992, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the centennial Matinee International Canadian Open women's championships. At the time, the Canadian Open tennis tournament was played at Jarry Park in Montreal on hard court. It was understood this rubber asphalt compound, medium-speed surface "should suit all players."

The men's centennial event was the most dramatic. Herb Zurkowsky of The Montreal Gazette reported on the final day: "At last, it is finally over! After 5 re-creations of Noah and His Ark’s 40 days and 40 nights drama (referring to rain washouts), 3 of which postponed play (including the weekend singles semi-finals and final matches), 2 power failures – one of which postponed play (and one blackout lasting 2 hours) – players withdrawing (Bjorn Borg's then wife fell ill) and top seeds (John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors) losing prematurely, the Player's International Canadian Open men's tennis championship (for 1981) is history." 

Ivan was granted the 5th and last wild-card entry one day before qualifying play started. There were 64 players competing in the $200,000 tournament. The qualifying play would see 24 players trying the gain the remaining 6 wild-card entries. Ivan reasoned, "If I had entered and withdrawn, I'd feel responsible...I can't play 6 matches each week." The 6 matches comprised the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds, quarter, semi and finals. 

There were 16 players seeded. Some 69,200 tickets were sold. The top prize was $32,000; the runner-up earned $16,000 and the semi-finalists earned $8800. The weekend rain washouts meant the semi-finals and finals had to be re-scheduled on the Monday of the following week with play resuming at 11am and the final "must be completed by approximately 8.30pm (that Monday night) since the sponsor has arranged for chartered flights to transport players to either Atlanta or Cincinnati, the sites of Grand Prix events beginning (on that Monday)." 

The organizers told the press they had lost about $20,000 in revenue because of "Noah and His Ark’s 40 days and 40 nights drama". The president of the men's organizing committee expressed, "Let’s be realistic. Someone who had tickets for Saturday and Sunday is not going to be elated about what happened. The next time a tournament is held, maybe we won’t see that fan again." 

In the final, Ivan took 90 minutes (with play scheduled at 4pm on that Monday afternoon) to defeat Eliot Teltscher 6-3, 6-2. Ivan broke Eliot's serves 3 times in the opening set and twice in the deciding set. He later said, "I definitely like playing in Canada...I told myself I wouldn't mind if I had to run for 10 hours." 

Ivan was leading 4-1 in the first set. Eliot remembered, "After making it 3-4, I felt I had him confused. He was playing too fast and going too much to the open court. You have to move him around and keep him deep. I couldn’t. He kept putting pressure on me and played closer to the baseline than me, meaning he cut off the angle and controlled most points." 

At 4-3, Ivan recounted, "Definitely it was a crucial point (deuce) in the 8th game. If he breaks me at 4-4, it’s a different game. The fact I held made it much easier. I might have been lucky (in game 8) but I was just as unlucky at 4-1." 

Eliot believed, "Really, when you get right down to it, there are only 3 stars in men's tennis (in 1981), anyway. Basically, I see myself as an average Joe. I can't be unhappy being ranked in the Top 10 in the world in something, but I'd like to feel competitive with the top guys. If I don’t start beating them this year (in 1982), it'll probably mean I've gone as far as I'm gonna go in this game." 

Ivan told the press he did not change his approach in the tournament because of the absence of "the Top 3 world players." United Press International observed, "Both men (Ivan and Eliot) played a probing game with neither enthusiastic about trying to take control of the net." Ivan made the comment, "The top guys (John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors) just lost. And that's too bad for the tournament. But nobody can do anything about that. Definitely if you go into a tournament with Borg, McEnroe and Connors you have to be mentally tough."

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