While most theatre companies wait to safely welcome back audiences, Come From Away is playing eight shows a week in Melbourne, Australia, to an almost packed house.
The musical retelling of how the citizens of Gander, N.L., responded during the events of 9/11 is one of the most successful Canadian theatrical exports, spawning numerous productions in North America, Britain and Australia.
Nine months into its run in Melbourne, Come From Away was forced to close its doors as the country worked to get the coronavirus under control.
Now, with the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne down to single digits, Come From Away has raised the curtain again. The Australian production, which resumed on Jan. 19, was one of the first shows to welcome back audiences, with new safety measures.
Contact tracing is required for all ticket holders, as is mandatory mask-wearing, and the 1,003-seat Comedy Theatre is limited to 85 per cent capacity.
Luke Hunter, the company’s musical director, remembers all too well the months of strict lockdown stuck in his apartment. He says the feeling from audiences when the cast returned to work surprised him.
Come From Away ends with a dramatic flourish as the lights go out and Hunter stands on a chair playing the accordion.
On the show’s opening night, the crowd roared. “I’d forgotten how impactful it is to hear the sound of a group of people that have been through an experience together…. It was really moving,” Hunter said.
Theatre in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Melbourne?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Melbourne</a> is back baby, and <a href=”https://twitter.com/ComeFromAwayAU?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ComeFromAwayAU</a> is a must see! 🎶🎵 Sitting with Claire Spencer CEO of Arts Centre and John Forman, the music legend. The masks are worth it. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/comefromaway?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#comefromaway</a> <a href=”https://t.co/hAdM47VyCZ”>pic.twitter.com/hAdM47VyCZ</a>
In Melbourne, fans such as Mike Benjamin are returning to see the show again because of what it represents.
“With the show being uplifting, it is that sense [that] I’m able to return to a sense of normality. It does warm the soul.”
As Benjamin drove home after the show, he listened to a news item about a new case of COVID-19 discovered in the community. While he said he doesn’t relish the idea of another lockdown, he thinks that’s why the musical’s message resonates.
“I think the big theme there is about looking out for other people and recognizing that we’re in this together.”
American actor Sharriese Hamilton plays Hannah in the Australian production and understands all too intimately the toll the virus can take.
When the production first shut down, she flew home to Chicago, where restrictions were less effective.
Hamilton lost some of her relatives to COVID-19, including the family’s matriarch. She went from performing for hundreds to trying to grieve over loved ones via Zoom.
Now she finds herself back on the other side of the globe, where the sun is shining and theatres are open. Seeing the audience there waiting, Hamilton choked back tears.
“Being in that room with all of those people who came out and put their masks on, it was an overwhelming feeling. I think we all were just like, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.'”
For Hunter, Hamilton and the rest of the cast and crew, the pandemic has changed what Come From Away stands for.
“It’s definitely deepened the message,” Hamilton said. “There’s a very different energy amongst us on stage and amongst the audience that we’ve been through something and we need each other.”
Performers talk about providing a service and feeling the audience respond and revel in the shared experience. But Hunter says the Australian company is also acting as a beacon for the the other Come From Away companies, still waiting to return.
“I’m acutely aware … when I sit down to conduct the show that there are four other companies of this show that are not doing what we get to do,” he said.
WATCH: Come From Away theatre companies send messages for opening night:
While the show goes on in Melbourne, the four other Come From Away productions sent messages to be played on opening night. ‘Chookas’ is an Australian expression that means good luck or break a leg. 1:18
For opening night, the Come From Away teams on Broadway, in Toronto and London, as well as with the touring company contributed a special video message played for the audience.
In the now-familiar mosaic of Zoom squares, the cast and crew members wished the Melbourne company “Chookas,” an Australian expression similar to break a leg or good luck.
“It has been unexpected to feel that responsibility, heartwarming as well,” Hunter said.
WATCH | Australian audiences return to theatre for Come From Away:
With its low COVID-19 case numbers, Melbourne, Australia, has reopened its theatres to audiences, and Come From Away — set in Gander, N.L., after 9/11 — is one of the first productions returning to the stage. 2:03
“We’re from Canada, so, it’s not too crazy. We’ve got some winter tires,” said a man interviewed by Boston 25 News on Saturday night. “We’re used to this growing up.”
It was a typical local news piece, reporting on poor visibility and poor road conditions in Massachusetts.
The man’s comments wouldn’t typically seem out of place in such a piece, except in this one instance — when the man on the street just happened to be Calgary Flames legend Jarome Iginla.
“I like the winter, but not necessarily — this might be a little too much,” Iginla told Boston 25 News.
“We’re from Canada, so it’s not too crazy” 😂❄️<br><br>A TV station in Boston unknowingly interviewed Jarome Iginla about a snowstorm<br><br>🎥: <a href=”https://twitter.com/lukeknox?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@lukeknox</a> <a href=”https://t.co/YI3Gqprtxz”>pic.twitter.com/YI3Gqprtxz</a>
On Twitter, Nicole Oliverio, the weekend evening anchor with the station, said she didn’t immediately recognize Iginla, who played a stint with the Boston Bruins.
“In my defence, it wasn’t my interview!” Oliverio wrote. “I was anchoring though, and didn’t pick up on it right away.”
In the interview, Iginla was turned to for his driving tips for the typical Boston driver in times of inclement weather.
“It’s not great, I tell you, you get some tough stretches,” he said. “But if you don’t go too fast, it’s doable.”
Iginla announced his retirement in 2018 after 20 seasons in the NHL. He scored 525 goals and 570 assists for 1,095 points in his 1,219 games with the Flames, before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
Iginla also played for the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, finishing his career with 1,300 points.
He also won two Olympic gold medals and was named to the NHL All-Star team six times.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top soccer division.
Parma-Spal, the first match of the day, kicked off after a 75-minute delay inside an empty stadium as officials considered an appeal from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora minutes before the scheduled start.
Spadafora said he supported a call from Italian soccer players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting players at risk amid the virus outbreak.
“It doesn’t make sense right now, when we’re requesting enormous sacrifices of our citizens in order to stop the spread of contagion, to put at risk the health of the players, referees, coaches and fans — who will surely get together to watch the games, just not to temporarily suspend soccer and damage all the interests that surround the game.” Spadafora said.
You can’t joke around with your health.– Mario Balotelli, Brescia striker
“I think [soccer federation president Gabriele] Gravina should have some additional consideration without waiting for the first case of contagion, before assuming this serious responsibility,” Spadafora added.
The players’ association was considering a strike, the Gazzetta dello Sport reported.
WATCH | Derby d’Italia plays out in empty stadium:
Juventus beat Inter Milan 2-0 in an empty stadium after the Italian Government decided all sporting events were to be played without spectators due to the coronavirus. 1:19
Striker Mario Balotelli, who plays for Brescia in the Lombardy region hit hardest by the virus, questioned why the games were being played in an Instagram story.
“Playing means travelling by bus, train, airplane, sleeping in hotels, coming into contact with other people outside your club,” Balotelli wrote. “You can’t joke around with your health.”
Five Serie A matches were scheduled for Sunday, beginning with Parma vs. Spal at 12:30 local time (7:30 ET) and concluding with Juventus vs. Inter Milan at 8:45 p.m. (1:45 ET). All of the matches had already been postponed from last weekend.
An appeal by Spadafora for this weekend’s games to be shown on free TV “considering the serious inconvenience affecting the population in this difficult time” was rejected by the league.
Parma and Spal players were ready to come onto the field at Ennio Tardini stadium in Parma when they received the news of Spadafora’s call for a suspension. The players then turned around and returned to their changing rooms.
Substitutes, who were already on the bench, also got up and rejoined their teammates in the changing rooms.
Then 45 minutes later, the players came back out to warm up again and the match began at 1:45 p.m. (1245 GMT). Relegation-threatened Spal won 1-0.
Workers inside the stadium wore masks over their faces, while streaming service DAZN showed the game with commentary from announcers based inside a Milan studio.
Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its population in a bid to halt the new coronavirus’ relentless march across Europe.
Shortly after midnight, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree affecting 16 million people in the country’s prosperous north, including the Lombardy region and at least 14 provinces in neighbouring regions. The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.
Italy on Saturday reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since its outbreak began on Feb. 21. The number of infected people rose 1,247 in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 5,883. Italy’s death toll rose to 233.
A patient at a British hospital played Mahler and Gershwin on the violin while a tumour was removed from her brain so that surgeons could preserve her ability to play music and her 40-year passion for the instrument.
Dagmar Turner, 53, a former management consultant from the Isle of Wight, played her violin during an operation to remove a tumour from the right frontal lobe of her brain — close to the area that controls the fine movement of her left hand.
To prevent any damage to her violin skills, Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, came up with a plan: they would map her brain, open the skull and then get her to play as they removed the tumour.
While surgeons cut away part of her brain, Turner played music by Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin’s jazz classic Summertime and pieces by Spanish songwriter and singer Julio Iglesias.
“This was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument,” said Ashkan, a fellow music lover. “We managed to remove over 90 per cent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”
Turner thanked the surgeons.
“The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old,” she said. “The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking.”
Turner, who plays in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra and various choral societies, left the hospital three days later and hopes to return to her orchestra soon.
Last year, surgeons in the Netherlands published a case report on a professional violin player who played the instrument during surgery to remove a tumour in the left motor area.
People collapsing in the streets of Wuhan, coverups of unreported deaths and travellers “escaping” quarantine in China at risk of spreading the coronavirus.
If you’ve been following the outbreak on social media, you may have seen some, or more, of these types of claims.
But the truth is, they’re completely unverified – and in most cases, flat out untrue.
Social media has completely changed the way in which information about a disease outbreak travels around the world and experts say it’s not for the better.
“When there’s a lack of information and there’s fear, rumours come in to fill that gap,” said Alfred Hermida, professor and director of the journalism program at the University of British Columbia.
“The reason people are sharing this is because they’re trying to make sense of what is a really complicated situation and also something that is potentially worrying. The danger is that it spins out of control, because fear then takes over.”
Hermida began tracking the rate at which information about the coronavirus has been shared on Twitter since coverage of the outbreak began late last month.
Hermida’s data showed about 25,000 tweets on Monday in the U.S., followed by over 80,000 Tuesday, close to 200,000 Wednesday, more than 350,000 Thursday and almost half a million on Friday alone.
“Fear is a very powerful motivator here,” he said. “It’s very easy to weaponize and for most people, it’s very hard to figure out if something you see on social media is true or not.
“It plays to our worst fears.”
‘Please quarantine him’
One incident occurred Thursday morning, with the story of a traveller who reportedly “escaped” Wuhan and was heading to Toronto. The traveller was flagged to Toronto Pearson International Airport on Twitter as someone who should be quarantined.
“This guy who escaped from Wuhan yesterday will be arrived at Toronto from Guangzhou today,” one Twitter user wrote. “Please quarantine him.”
The official account for the airport responded publicly, adding legitimacy to the claim and raising important privacy concerns. The information was also reportedly shared with border officials.
“Thank you for letting us know!!” the response read. “We will share this information with Canada Immigration.”
For York University sociology professor Fuyuki Kurasawa, the tweet from an official source like the airport was troubling.
“I haven’t seen anything like that and it seems to me to be a violation of that traveller’s privacy, basic human rights and their right to be considered for fair treatment upon arriving at the Canadian border,” he said.
“I don’t know if the person who was responsible for the Twitter account at Pearson Airport was aware of the potential violation of that person’s human rights or civil liberties, but it certainly seems to be a case that’s highly problematic.”
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said that it’s not uncommon for the airport to receive information that needs to be reviewed to maintain passenger and employee safety.
“The information had been shared widely on social media and blogging platforms before being sent to our account,” Robin Smith said of the tweet.
“The safety of passengers and employees is our top priority, and a response was posted to maintain transparency with concerned members of the public.”
The responses from other Twitter users were indeed concerning.
“For God’s sake keep him away from us!!!!” one Twitter user wrote.
“We need to quarantine everyone on that flight!!” another wrote.
But amid the panic, there was a clear lack of understanding of the nature of this coronavirus and the measures in place to prevent the spread of the illness.
Symptoms may also not present initially and, if this person did in fact leave Wuhan, they would have presumably done so before the quarantine of the city or after a comprehensive exit screening at the airport there.
Fear driving misinformation online
Other outlandish claims include reports that China’s 5G wireless network could help spread the illness, or that nicotine could cure it.
“Anything that’s health-related, the challenge online is that it’s so emotional,” said Ramona Pringle, director of the Creative Innovation Studio at Ryerson University.
“It speaks to our primal instincts about survival that people panic, people have an emotional reaction to it.”
Officials are reminding people to get information about coronavirus from credible sources after large amounts of misinformation about the illness was spread on social media. 2:09
Pringle said a pattern with misinformation that goes viral is that the verified and accurate information never gets the same traction online.
“It doesn’t have the stuff that makes people want to share it. It doesn’t have that shock and strong emotion,” she said.
“Maybe people end up seeing it, but if they see it, they’re not sharing it. They’re not spreading it, unfortunately.”
False alarm in the Philippines
An example of this was a tweet that had huge engagement on Monday.
“WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THE #CORONAVIRUS AND HOW IT HAS ALREADY CLAIMED 4 LIVES,” a Twitter user wrote.
“AND THERE’s THIS CHINESE KID IN CEBU WHO HAS THE VIRUS AND HOW THE VIRUS IS CONTAGIOUS BETWEEN HUMANS.”
Cebu, a province in the Philippines, has not had any cases of the illness to date.
Hours later, the same user clarified that the illness may not be the same as the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China, but that tweet was only retweeted five times.
Concerns over racial profiling
Kurasawa, at York University in Toronto, says social media can amplify the fear that people have during an outbreak and decrease their ability to filter inaccurate information.
That can lead to a type of “vigilantism,” where people share personal information online, like in the case of the tweet the airport responded to, or confront them in the real world.
“So you can imagine quickly that there would be targeting of people from specific ethnic or racial groups as a result of this, as potential carriers of a particular in this case of coronavirus,” he said. “And that’s very worrisome.”
Kurasawa said he lived in Toronto during the 2003 SARS epidemic, and saw this type of racial profiling firsthand.
“I was with a friend of mine who is Korean-Canadian and she happened to have a cold. She was coughing, and we were on the subway,” he said.
“And we literally had people who jumped out of their seats, got angry at her for being on the subway, said something and then jumped right out of the subway car as soon as it got to the next stop.”
This irrational fear and racist behaviour is nothing recent, but Kurasawa said it could easily happen again with the current outbreak.
“The debate is going to be whether the message of ‘let’s remember the lessons of SARS’ is going to win over the message of fear and panic, where people justified racist behavior because of their concern about their own health,” he said.
“That’s the concern I think that a lot of people are having.”
When one of Russia’s most successful filmmakers watched HBO’s acclaimed miniseries on Chornobyl, he says his heart initially sank.
With his own production well underway but still more than a year and a half from release, Alexander Rodnyansky had been beaten to the punch.
“We got very disappointed, of course, because we wanted to tell our own story,” said Rodnyansky. “We never expected such an important platform as HBO to tell such a specific story from Soviet history.”
Rodnyansky, an Oscar nominee who’s made some of the highest-grossing movies in Russian history, had started working almost four years earlier on a blockbuster film that he hoped would be the definitive treatment of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster.
A botched safety test sent clouds of nuclear material across much of eastern Europe, killing 31 people right away and forcing tens of thousands to flee. The final death toll from cancer and other radiation-related illnesses is subject to debate.
After the five-part HBO miniseries began airing in June, American writer Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck were basking in praise.
But then, Rodnyansky says, his spirits lifted.
He says he saw how well viewers, including those in Russia, responded to the story, how it has sparked a Chornobyl revival, and how a record number of tourists are flocking to the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, north of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.
“I realized this series would definitely make people more aware of what happened. It would make the story of Chornobyl much more attractive, much more interesting for viewers.”
Rodnyansky met with CBC News recently in the Moscow office of his Non Stop Productions to discuss the disaster, the impact of the miniseries and the Russian movie industry’s efforts to play catch-up.
His long list of film credits include 2013’s Stalingrad, the highest-grossing feature film in modern Russian history, and 2014’s Leviathan, which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film and won the category that year at the Golden Globes.
Rodnyansky’s upcoming film, tentatively titled Chornobyl: Abyss, is in post-production and set for a 2020 release.
Recently, CBC News visited a giant, flooded sound stage in Budapest, Hungary where producers were shooting a key scene for the movie.
Prominent Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky plays the lead role of a “liquidator” — one of a three-man suicide squad sent into the watery basement of the reactor on a mission to prevent the release of a catastrophic nuclear cloud.
“They had to become heroes and save lives,” Kozlovsky told CBC News. “They had to save the whole country and the whole of Europe.”
Kozlovsky, who also directs the film, says while comparisons to the HBO miniseries are inevitable, he believes his movie advances the story beyond “the state lie” about the disaster and is even more relatable for movie watchers.
“We are focusing on a specific family and the impact of the events of 1986, how this changes them and who they become at the end of the story.”
Rodnyansky, the executive producer, grew up in Kyiv, and has vivid memories of disaster, which occurred when he was 25.
“I saw these firemen myself and I saw these young people who were … risking their lives and losing their lives, and I remember their funerals,” said Rodnyansky, who’s now 58.
Shortly after the HBO series hit the pay-for-view channels in Russia over the summer, there was grumbling from senior figures in the Kremlin and on state television about an anti-Russian bias.
The Moscow Times quoted Russian TV anchor Stanislav Natanzon as complaining that the production was full of lazy Soviet stereotypes: “The only things missing are the bears and accordions!”
Rodnyansky says given the frosty political relationship between Russia and the West, such negative comments were to be expected. But he emphasises his production isn’t an attempt to “Russianize” the Chornobyl story.
“I wouldn’t call [our movie] a political statement,” he said, adding he believes most Russians, including himself, admired the HBO production.
“This movie is definitely about the lie, but we don’t investigate the system. We tell, very much, our story about ordinary people.”
Other Russian treatments of Chornobyl, however, may be playing to a more political audience.
NTV, owned by the Russian state energy giant Gazprom, has commissioned its own made-for-TV miniseries which reportedly focuses on the hunt for an alleged CIA spy working at the Chornobyl facility.
There’s no evidence that foreign spies or espionage played any role in the disaster.
The series was supposed to air in late 2019 but NTV has pulled the trailer, and a production official told CBC News that scheduling issues have delayed the project’s release.
Given the political blowback in Russia over the success of a British-American production tackling such a prominent event in Soviet history, many Russian commentators have openly asked why Russian filmmakers didn’t make their own Chornobyl version first.
‘Look from the outside’
Rodnyansky says time and distance likely have a lot to with it.
“It would have been possible to this movie, for sure,” he says.
“But sometimes we need to look from the outside.”
“Sometimes we’re good at telling the stories that are distant from us. And probably Chornobyl was too close. Because in many ways, Chornobyl [became] the most important event that ended the Soviet Union.”
Kozlovsky, the actor and director, says while being first would have been better, it’s also good that the HBO series was widely seen in Russia.
“When people see our film, they probably already know what happens — kind of like being well educated, which is good.”
Kozlovsky says that education may have helped win over an unlikely financial backer for the project — none other than Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom.
He says while Rosatom officials initially had concerns that the world’s worst nuclear disaster might not be the kind of topic they wanted to go anywhere near, they were eventually won over by the script and the tone of the project.
“I spoke to some very high-level officials who really liked the HBO series,” he said, noting that Rosatom eventually “became our friends and partners and helped us make this film.”
When CBC News visited Chornobyl this fall, most of the visitors who talked to our crew said they had seen the HBO movie.
Tourism operators report a 30 per cent increase in visitors to the 30-kilometre exclusion zone that surrounds the now shuttered plant. Short day trips pose almost no risk of radiation, though the site remains off limits to anyone under 18.
“It shook me,” British tourist Dave Stambury said. “I had known about Chornobyl but I didn’t have a feel for the catastrophe.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he hopes to cash in on the renewed Chornobyl interest by making it easier to visit the site.
It’s not Disneyland
Site operators have recently opened previously inaccessible areas to tourists, including the control room of Reactor 4, where staff made many of the fateful decisions leading up to the botched safety test, early in the morning on April 26, 1986.
Rodnyansky says while he’s in favour of people seeing Chornobyl for themselves, he doesn’t support exploiting it.
“On the one side, it sounds crazy to me,” said Rodnyansky, of the push to increase tourism.
“For me, this is rather a place to remember, a place of mourning — definitely not a Disney park or a theme park.”
Ever since World of Warcraft Classic launched, I’ve been burning a significant amount of time in Azeroth. While the game is no longer as popular as it once was, it’s played on an ongoing basis by millions of people worldwide. Classic offers a unique chance to return to the original version of a multiplayer game and to experience a bit of gaming history in the process. This article compares the leveling and adventuring experience of the first third of WoW, spanning levels 1-20.
In this article, “Retail” refers to the current version of the game, “Classic” refers to the new servers Blizzard launched in late August, and “Vanilla” refers to the original game and associated experiences from 2004 onwards. References to Vanilla are historical references.
About the Author, Test Rules
I have played World of Warcraft since well before the game launched. I joined the Closed Beta in March 2004, just after the Tri-Horde push. I briefly played a Paladin, but ultimately wound up maining a Warlock and hit Lvl 60 before the game launched. I wrote extensively on Warlocks at the time, but once WoW had actually shipped I decided I’d rather try a new role and class and rolled a Paladin on Zul’jin. I have mained a Paladin ever since and have reviewed the game and its expansions over the past 15 years, for various publications.
Lakeshire, Redridge Mountains. Left is Retail, right is Classic. I’m rather proud of how well I was able to blend these two images, screenshots are hard to match across two different game clients. Click to enlarge.
I’ve tested the game(s) by leveling a Paladin in both Retail and in Classic. I recall the original Paladin leveling experience in Classic, and I wanted to use a class I was familiar with in both versions of the game. Paladins are not the fastest levelers in Classic, but they have excellent survivability. They are also capable of fulfilling all three of the game’s primary roles (DPS, healing, tanking) while leveling in both Classic and Retail. Protection Warriors are preferred tanks for endgame raiding in Classic, but for leveling, all of the hybrid classes (Druid, Shaman, Paladin) have healing, DPS, and tanking options.
My goal with this series of articles is to compare the leveling and game experience between Classic and Retail, without taking advantage of any of the additional bonuses Retail players can use to level faster. Retail WoW offers Heirloom gear — items that increase in level every time you do. Several of these items also increase the amount of experience you earn. My Retail playthrough does not use these items. I do not craft gear for my Retail Paladin using a different character. This means that my Retail Paladin will not level as quickly as a Retail player with alts is likely to level today. My goal, however, is not to compare the experience of playing WoW with tons of alts, but to compare how the game feels and plays with a new player experiencing the game for the first time in both versions. I’ve met people in Classic and Retail experiencing WoW for the first time in 2019.
I have sought to duplicate my original play-through in all the particulars I can still remember. My Paladin — Tovah on Classic, Tovahlt on Retail — has used the same zones for leveling and played through the same content. I have taken the same professions (Blacksmithing, Mining) on both. I have spent time in game leveling both my professions and my character, but I handle the profession leveling at natural down points for doing so. I have avoided going Away From Keyboard (AFK) on either character so that my leveling speed measurements remain accurate. If I need to go AFK, I log out first.
I have used no add-ons for my Lvl 1-20 experience. While I played with add-ons as an endgame Vanilla raider, there weren’t very many available when I was leveling in the earliest parts of Classic, and I wanted to replicate my experience as closely as possible.
Finally, please keep in mind that this is a leveling comparison that specifically focuses on Lvl 1-20. It is not a dungeon comparison or a DPS/tanking comparison. It most certainly is not an endgame raid comparison. I will address all of these topics as they are relevant in future articles.
Let’s Get to Fighting
The first thing to know about World of Warcraft Classic versus Retail is that these are two different games that happen to share a common engine and the same graphical assets. The experience of playing a Paladin in WoW Classic is entirely different from the experience of playing in WoW Retail. Retail is faster, more polished, and less grindy, but has a very different difficulty curve. Classic is slower and requires more grinding, but can also feel more rewarding.
Three Corners, at the border of Elwynn and Redridge. Classic WoW, click to enlarge.
In both cases, my Paladin begins the game with a handful of core capabilities. In Classic, Paladins use what’s called the Seal/Judgement system. Seals affect your attack in various ways. My first Seal, Seal of Righteousness (SoR), inflicts a flat amount of additional holy damage on any mob I strike. I can then cast Judgement a target to inflict additional damage, but this consumes the Seal (which must be re-cast and costs mana). In Retail, I have a quick melee attack, Crusader Strike, on a long cooldown. Judgment still exists in Retail, but it isn’t linked to any other attack and doesn’t require that I refresh a separate ability after I use it. Characters in Retail WoW have far fewer spells than Classic WoW does and class abilities are gated based on your current specialization (Holy, Retribution, or Protection for healing, damage-dealing, and tanking roles).
Three Corners, Retail WoW. Click to enlarge
The first difference I notice favors Retail. Casting Crusader Strike and watching the animation play is viscerally more interesting than SoR. SoR adds damage, but it doesn’t play a different attack animation when it triggers. The flow of combat is completely different between the two games. In Retail, mobs die so quickly, there’s no meaningful skill or strategy required to deal with them. I spend far more time waiting for my two abilities (Crusader Strike and Judgment) to come off cooldown than anything else.
In Classic, you start with the Holy Light healing spell and the game expects you to use it. It becomes immediately apparent that the class is designed around the idea that you will heal during combat. Retail creatures have far fewer hitpoints and kill speed in Retail is much faster than it is in Classic. It can take 15-60 seconds to kill a single creature in Classic, particularly if it is 3-4 levels higher than you. In Retail, this is impossible — all creatures are the same level you are unless you deliberately enter a zone you aren’t ready to play in yet. You don’t even get a heal until Lvl 8 and you’ll scarcely use it.
The slideshow above compares Retail and Classic WoW in terms of graphical settings, draw distance, and some other changes between the two versions. I went for as close to an “apples-to-apples” comparison as I could frame between the two.
Game Difficulty, Leveling Speed
The biggest difference between Retail and Classic is the underlying difficulty of the game. Classic WoW can be genuinely difficult, particularly if you wander around in areas intended for players above your level. It is not unusual to see mobs spawn in packs of 3-5. A Paladin between levels 1-20 might manage to kill a pack of three monsters but pulling 5 creatures at equal level with normal gear is going to get you killed. Mobs are often packed close together and spawn with no warning. Because creatures in Classic WoW have their own independent levels, you can adjust the game difficulty by where you choose to play. Playing in a zone with quests a little too low for you will be easier; playing in a zone where the quests are orange or red will be significantly harder or downright impossible. There are fewer quests overall, and you may wind up making long treks to other areas (or simply killing monsters) to finish off a level and open more content.
In Retail WoW, all creatures are the same level you are. They have far fewer hitpoints and you carve through them like butter. This level-matching means that the game offers a flat difficulty curve. Classic WoW had some quests that were substantially harder than others. In Retail, quest difficulty is static and stuck on “Easy.” This disparity is part of why leveling in Retail is so much faster than leveling in Classic. Retail also has more quests available, the quests are gathered into the same area to make finding them easier, quest items are highlighted, and there are more flight points to move you around the early zones. When you don’t have a mount yet, those flight points are worth their weight in gold.
In Classic, if I see someone running away from a group of enemies, it’s because they’re about to die. In Retail, if I see someone being chased by a group of enemies, it’s because they’re gathering them up for more efficient slaughter. If I had to pick one observed difference between the two games that captures the essence of playing them, it would be that.
Classic doesn’t have to be a challenge, but you can play it that way if you want to. Retail leveling simply isn’t challenging. The only exception to this was when I walked into the Deadmines (a 5-man instanced dungeon) and started killing the elite mobs on my own. Gold elite mobs in Classic will have your guts for garters if you try to take them 1v1 in the early part of the game. In Classic, I have to be careful about how many mobs I pull, and what level they are relative to me. I also have to make sure I’m topped up on mana and health before a multi-mob fight and I will have to heal between every engagement. In Retail, I almost never stop to eat or drink.
The combined impact of these changes means that leveling in Retail WoW is much, much faster than in Classic. Below are my leveling times for each level in Classic versus Retail. The line isn’t straight because I was able to bounce through some levels faster than others by turning in a ton of quests at the same time. The graph below shows my cumulative leveling time at each level. The trend is quite clear:
As of this writing, I have played 492 minutes (8.2 hours) in Retail and 1713 minutes (28.5 hours) in Classic. 17-18 was a pain point; the zones I was questing in were both stuffed with players and it took me a while to complete quest objectives. I also spent time leveling up professions at 17. I hit Lvl 20 in Retail more than 3x faster than I achieved the same goal in Classic.
In Classic WoW, the best way to increase your leveling speed is to level in dungeons or do quests in groups. The relatively short time I spent going from 18-19 and 19-20 is because I ran Deadmines in the first instance and grouped up with people to do quests in the second. In Retail, it scarcely matters. Hitting dungeons is a good way to learn how to group and get some quests out of the way, but you don’t need to do it. If you have Heirloom gear, you already have better items than you’ll get otherwise.
How the Class Evolves
In Classic WoW, the Paladin is a support class, with strong, short-term buffs. Paladins have more buffs than any other class and our buffs have unique effects that no other single class has. We can give bonuses to attack power and mana regeneration, reduce the damage taken by physical attacks, reduce the threat other classes generate, transfer damage taken by other classes to ourselves, and buff the resistances of other classes (and ourselves) to various elemental damage. I’m still missing most of these abilities at Level 20, but I cast the ones I have constantly. In Classic WoW, your choice of specification (Ret, Holy, Protection) is basically a “flavor” layered on top of a strong support class. Running around the world and buffing random folks is one of the joys of Classic WoW and people frequently return the favor, even though our buffs are short (5 minutes).
In Retail WoW, each class has far fewer abilities and the abilities you do have are tied much more tightly to your particular spec. Because Blizzard has made a number of changes to WoW to reduce its difficulty and the importance of grouping, most of our buff capability is gone as well. In Classic, I buffed people from Lvl 1 forward. In Retail, I won’t even get Blessing of Kings until Lvl 58. Distinctive class abilities in Classic, like the ability to Lay on Hands (fully heal my target at the expense of all my mana), are already unlocked by Lvl 20 but don’t unlock until much later in Retail.
Both versions of the game have Talent points that you invest periodically to improve your skills and abilities. In Classic, you begin unlocking talent points at Lvl 10 and earn one talent point per level. The value of each individual talent point is mostly low. Classic WoW has certain core talents in each tree that you unlock after investing a certain number of points. One problem with Classic that hits every class in one way or another is that certain talents have much less utility than others. Discipline Priests, for example, have to invest 5 points in either Wand Specialization (more wand damage) or 15% fear/stun/interrupt resistance. Wand damage is marginally useful for leveling. Neither option is very good.
Every class has a number of subpar talent choices like this. Retribution Paladins, however, have some reasonably solid choices for talent point investment when leveling and my 11th talent point at Lvl 20 unlocks the primary DPS ability I’ll use for the rest of the game: Seal of Command. Talents cannot be changed in Classic without paying gold to an NPC who can reset them for you, and the fee for resetting your talents goes up each time you do it, to a maximum of 50 gold.
In Retail WoW, talents are unlocked every 15 levels except for the last. Each specialization has its own talent tree and there are always three options for each level. The retail talent system reflects Blizzard’s efforts to fix the old Talent system. Every class in Classic WoW has at least some talents that are borderline useless, and some classes have entire trees or roles that are unused in the endgame due to poor design and a deliberate decision made by Blizzard to force all of the hybrid classes into principally healing roles for endgame content. Retail WoW has never completely solved the useless talent problem, but there’s usually at least one good option out of three. This system may well work better mechanically, but it doesn’t feel as fulfilling while leveling, at least not to me. Opinions on this point are split and may reflect how good (or bad) your classes talent trees were in Classic to start with.
WoW Paladin Talents Retail. Some of the Classic talents are still available in this tree.
I have far fewer talents and spells to juggle in Retail than in Classic. Combined with the very low difficulty and high kill speed, this makes Retail WoW rather boring to play while leveling by comparison. The flip side, as we’ve seen, is that leveling is much faster. At Lvl 20, my Classic Paladin’s utility comes from his ability to heal himself and others during combat, his damage, and his buffs. In Retail, I kill things quickly… and that’s pretty much it.
Why Leveling Is More Fun in Classic WoW
Leveling in Classic WoW is slower than in Retail, but in my opinion, it’s also far more fun. There’s a contradiction at the heart of the Classic versus Retail comparison that has to be unpacked to be understood. By every objective metric, Retail should be more fun. Leveling is faster, and difficulty is more consistent. Quests are easier to do. Some quest chains are frankly more interesting, thanks to the use of phasing content (phasing refers to the ability to change how the world looks for players who are on a specific part of a quest chain; WoW Classic completely lacks this feature).
But one consequence of this complete lack of difficulty is a sort-of boring sameness. In Classic, I check people’s health bars as I run by and buff nearly everyone I see. Even if I had buffs in Retail WoW, they wouldn’t matter, because no one needs them. Kill speeds are so fast, there’s no point in even trying to help someone. By the time I reach them, they’ve already killed whatever mob they targeted. It’s still faster to level in a group, but there’s no real need to work together in any way to do it, beyond targeting the same type of mob. When I group with other people in Classic, I assume whatever role will bring utility to the group — healing, if I’m the only healer, or DPSing if I’m not.
The dramatically lower difficulty and the way the game has been streamlined means that many NPC trainers are useless in Retail today. They still exist, but they can’t teach you anything — skills are acquired automatically, at no cost. Classic WoW requires you to carefully manage your money and weigh the benefits of purchasing an item on the AH against what your future skill upgrades will cost you. Retail requires no such calculation.
Why has Blizzard flattened, accelerated, and simplified leveling this way? A full discussion of all the reasons will have to wait for future articles. Some of the reasons why Blizzard made the changes it did don’t really come into play until later in Classic WoW, and we’ll address them in future comparisons. The reason we’ll discuss today (because it’s already visible in the 1-20 play-through) has to do with alts.
When Blizzard built World of Warcraft, it designed the game to make it easy to hit max level and to maintain alternative well-geared characters, known as “alts.” New character classes and races have been introduced with several expansions, along with new starting areas or experiences to give players incentive to hit the leveling treadmill once again.
While it’s absolutely possible to level a character in WoW using different zones (and therefore having different experiences), people who have leveled 4-12 alts have long since worn the bloom off the metaphorical rose. Players have consistently pushed Blizzard to make leveling faster and easier. When the overwhelming majority of people are playing in the endgame, making people run a bunch of dungeons to hit maximum level in an acceptable amount of time just encourages them to quit playing altogether. All of the changes Blizzard has made to leveling, as near as I can tell, stem from a desire to make the game more accessible to people leveling their 10th character as opposed to their first. And players have relentlessly pushed for these changes because no one really enjoys running through the exact same content for the 10th or 15th time.
It makes perfect sense, but the end result is a substandard experience. Thus far, from levels 1-20, there’s virtually no challenge in Retail WoW. Classic WoW is not particularly hard by default, but you can play it in a way that’ll stretch your own abilities. The wide availability of buffs and the difficulty of higher-level content encourage grouping in a way that Retail doesn’t require.
Right now, two things are true:
WoW Classic’s community is vastly more vibrant, polite, fun, and enjoyable than anything currently going on in retail.
I am not certain I can argue this makes WoW Classic’s community “better” in any lasting way.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the current community atmosphere in WoW Classic is more fun than anything I’ve seen in retail in years. People are grouping together, playing together, and being downright polite. Chat is full of mock arguments over whether it’s called Deadmines or Van Cleef, not political debates. Chuck Norris memes and discussions of vanilla game mechanics dominate chat. Yes, I’ve seen people being jerks. It hasn’t been the norm.
I have a few ideas about why this is true.
First, remember that a lot of people have fond memories of WoW Classic. Nostalgia is a powerful draw; being able to run content with your friends and family for the first time, again is a powerful draw. I know parents who play WoW with their children and spouses who raid together. A lot of people are having a lot of fun in Classic for this reason alone. Happy people buff each other, they take turns on spawn points, and they line up for quests. Classic WoW’s very early game (1-10) is definitely more difficult than Retail WoW’s equivalent, but Elwynn Forest is still a pretty gentle place to play.
When I’m walking in Stormwind…
WoW’s early game hits an agreeable sweet spot in terms of leveling speed, and while zone crowding is annoying, there are usually some ways to mitigate it — some zones are more popular than others, and there are optimal routes to take in terms of leveling speed. Spawn rates and drop rates are low enough to be annoying, but they aren’t so annoying as to make the game unplayable. There are advantages to having a lot of people running around. Folks are willing to group up easily and groups can knock out higher-level quests than a solo player can. Leveling speed in groups is fast enough to compete with Retail, and the game encourages grouping. Right now, the game is easy enough that even a not-very-good player can play it.
I’ve spoken to people who explicitly say they came back to Classic because they wanted the more challenging experience it offers. I’m one of them. There’s a contingent of retail players that sneer at the idea that anyone would want to go back to Classic. They’re wrong to do so. A lot of people, including me, are having more fun in Classic than we’ve had in Retail WoW in years.
But as nice as the current situation is, any fair consideration of the topic has to acknowledge the other side of the coin.
Yes, Classic WoW is currently a fun, happy place to be — certainly happier than retail. But the bloom is currently very much on the rose. There’s a certain critical mass of players that need to be moving through a zone in World of Warcraft Classic to ensure enough people to form groups for various dungeons, or even for quests. Without enough people to do group quests or dungeons, you’re locked out of the better items and quicker leveling these areas offer. People who like doing quests to see the plot points don’t get to see them. Gear that would make your leveling easier remains out of reach.
As people level up, the early zones empty out, and leveling slows down. It’s going to be harder to find people to group up with to do quests and move through content quickly. Running dungeons is a great way to level, but running dungeons on alts still requires finding people to play with. As the early zones empty out, groups get harder to find. Joining a guild can help, but leveling alts was still a pretty slow process and one consistent complaint that players made to Blizzard was that it was too hard to find people to run dungeons with.
I’m only discussing community in terms of groups in this article — the damn thing is long enough already — but I think that makes sense for 1-20, where most grouping is done in temporary clusters rather than in-guilds. Nonetheless, Classic WoW encourages grouping for mob-tagging and faster questing/dungeoneering. That’s a wonderful thing when there’s plenty of people to play with. It’s not great at all when you don’t have them around.
WoW Classic is designed to funnel players toward endgame content. Level 60 is the end-state. This is one issue that’s going to reoccur, and that’s why I’m not terribly comfortable waxing poetic about the wonderful nature of the Classic community. It’s not because people aren’t being helpful; they very much are. It’s because some of the changes that Blizzard put into the game between Vanilla and Battle for Azeroth may have weakened the community bonds of the game, but they were changes Blizzard made to try and support what many players themselves said they wanted. At the same time, yes, there were players who were absolutely against these changes. Every expansion of WoW has made significant changes to the underlying game mechanics.
The social dynamics of WoW changed when cross-server battlegrounds went in (I was making my own run for Commander at the time). They changed when multi-queue battlegrounds went in. They changed when the LFG and LFR tools were put into the game. There are people who preferred the social dynamics of the game in Vanilla and people playing Battle for Azeroth today who wouldn’t go back to Vanilla if you paid them to do it. I don’t know that one is better than the other, but I do know that Vanilla’s original social model certainly wasn’t perfect.
But I will say this. There is no better time to play Classic World of Warcraft than right now. The game is best experienced on a well-populated server, with plenty of people leveling alongside you.
Classic Isn’t Perfect, But It Wins the Early Game Comparison
Are there downsides to Classic? Absolutely. You’ll spend a lot of time running hither-and-yon in search of quest mats and quest givers, taking notes from Person A to Person B, and staring at the ass-end of a gryphon. Retail has some better quests and better quest availability. Being able to find a group in the dungeon finder can be a godsend if you only have a little while to play and wanted to get in a dungeon run. Retail WoW is more flexible and vastly more respectful of your time. If I had to pick which game I’d rather level five characters in, I’d pick Retail. Asked which game I’d rather level in once — at least from 1-20 — I’d pick Classic. That may change as we progress.
In some of my past articles on WoW, some of you have asked why I didn’t really dive into the differences between Retail and Classic. This article is the reason. Once I started unpacking the differences, there were a lot of differences to be unpacked — so many that after some consideration, I realized I’d have to split the article into parts. There’s simply no other way to speak to the way WoW has evolved in its intervening years or to explore the differences in content and community.
One thing I also want to note is that I’m not speaking strictly from nostalgia, here. Last year, I persuaded my fiancée to give WoW a try for the first time and leveled a Monk with her. I’ve done the leveling experience in Retail already and my opinion on it hasn’t changed that much between then and now. Doing it on two different versions of the same character class gave me a lot of insight into how Paladins have changed and having Classic to play has let me refresh my 15-year-old memories — but it hasn’t changed my thoughts on the Retail side of the experience.
I understand why Blizzard has made the changes that it made to WoW and why it made them, but I hope the company spends some time analyzing the fact that a 15-year-old memory of its game offers a better starting experience than the current one does. I’m not saying WoW has to evolve back towards Vanilla to make itself more fun, but the current Retail experience just isn’t as good. It feels hollowed-out compared with the original game, and the lack of any real difficulty means I’m not looking forward to playing it as much as I’m enjoying Classic — at least so far. We’ll see what 21-40 hold.
In conclusion, for those of you who made it this far, I’ll leave you with the below. Keep an eye out for Hodor and Ronda Rousey.
I’m glad to be back in Classic — gladder than I ever thought I would be, to be honest. That may change as I move into the endgame. It’s not clear yet if Druids, Shaman, and Paladins will get a better shake in non-healing rolls in 2019 than they got in 2004, and a lot of hybrid players were unhappy with WoW precisely because of this limitation. Classic WoW had endgame balance problems that are not apparent while leveling and while I’m focused on reviewing the game as I’m playing it, I recall those issues all too well.
But all of that is in the future. For now, I’m off to craft myself a hammer and see what I can smash with it.
Rafael Nadal was up near the Centre Court net when Nick Kyrgios smacked a booming forehand directly at the guy’s midsection — right at him, on purpose — and earned a lengthy staredown in return.
Kyrgios didn’t apologize, at the time or at his news conference — for that or for berating the chair umpire or for spending time at a local pub the night before the match.
Rarely does Kyrgios offer regrets, for much of anything. Instead, he tends to double down. He is nothing if not fascinating. He is talented, too. And yet it was Nadal who emerged from all of the tumult Thursday at Wimbledon to beat Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in a second-round match boasting plenty of dramatics, a dose of animosity and delightful play by both men.
“I’m always willing to go out there and try and put on a show. I know people that bought a ticket today probably had a great day,” said Kyrgios, a 24-year-old Australian who is ranked 43rd. “At times today, I was looking around: This is Wimbledon, playing Rafa. … But I’ll probably wake up tomorrow (and) there will be something negative about it, for sure.”
Kyrgios is capable of being as entertaining and befuddling a player as there is and showed why throughout this 3-hour-plus contest that overshadowed everything else going on around the grass-court Grand Slam tournament on Day 4.
WATCH | Nadal dispatches Kyrgios:
Nick Kyrgios kept things interesting in his four-set loss to Rafael Nadal on Thursday. 1:49
In the leadup to this meeting, Kyrgios joked that he didn’t think “me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox and have a beer together,” referring to a nearby bar where Kyrgios was spotted Wednesday night. The 33-year-old Nadal, meanwhile, observed that he was “too old for all this stuff.”
In the third set, there was that “dangerous” ball — Nadal’s word — he sent toward the Spaniard, who blocked it with his racket at the last second. Perhaps startled, Nadal double-faulted on the next point. But he wound up holding serve, then celebrating like he’d won the match, leaping and yelling and punching the air. When he eventually did seal the victory, Nadal wagged a finger and shouted and fist-pumped some more.
Asked by a reporter why he didn’t say sorry at the time, Kyrgios replied: “I didn’t hit him. Hit his racket, no? Why would I apologize? I won the point. … I mean, the dude has got how many Slams, how much money in the bank account? I think he can take a ball to the chest, bro.”
Defending champ Kerber goes down
Eight-time men’s champion Roger Federer and seven-time women’s champion Serena Williams moved into the third round at Wimbledon.
Defending women’s champion Angelique Kerber went out in the second.
Federer advanced as expected on Thursday, beating wild-card entry Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2 on No. 1 Court. Williams had a bit of a tougher time at the same stadium, needing to come back to beat Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.
WATCH | Federer cruises past Clarke:
Roger Federer defeated British opponent Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6, 6-2 in straight sets at Wimbledon. 1:21
But unseeded American Lauren Davis pulled off the unexpected, defeating Kerber 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 on No. 2 Court.
“I told myself you’re strong, you can do it, you belong here,” said Davis, who only entered the tournament as a lucky loser.
Kerber beat Williams in last year’s final. Federer won his eighth title at the All England Club in 2017 and was eliminated in the quarterfinals last year.
WATCH | Kerber upset by unseeded Lauren Davis:
After entering the main draw as a lucky loser, American Lauren Davis stunned defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. 1:08
Despite his pedigree at Wimbledon, Federer played his British opponent on the second biggest court on the grounds instead of his usual spot on Centre Court.
“I really enjoyed myself on Court 1 today with the roof,” Federer said. “I couldn’t really tell if it was Centre Court or Court 1, actually.”
Serena comes back to win
Williams had to come from a set down to stay on course for an eighth Wimbledon title.
Williams was broken twice in the opening set but recovered to beat Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 and move into the third round.
With good friend Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, watching from the stands at No. 1 Court, Williams had a chance to serve out the match at 5-2 in the third but was broken. She made no mistakes on her second attempt, however, converting her first match point with an ace.
WATCH | Serena Williams wins 2nd-round match at Wimbledon:
Serena Williams battled back from being down a set to defeat Kaja Juvan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to advance at Wimbledon. 0:45
Williams improved to 23-0 against qualifiers at Grand Slam tournaments, having dropped only two sets against them in previous matches.
Juvan was making her Wimbledon debut. She lost in the first round of the French Open in May in her only previous Grand Slam appearance.
Barty cruises into 3rd round
If the pressure is getting to Ash Barty at Wimbledon, she’s doing a great job of hiding it.
The top-ranked Australian came into the grass-court Grand Slam tournament after winning the French Open and a Wimbledon warm-up event in Birmingham. And she’s now won two in a row at the All England Club to reach the third round and stretch her winning streak to 14 straight.
Barty beat Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 6-3, needing only 55 minutes on No. 2 Court to advance. And it could have been even quicker but she failed to serve out the match at 5-2 in the second set — the only time she was broken.
“Pretty sharp right from the start,” the top-seeded Barty said. “I was able to implement what I wanted to right away and put the pressure straight back on her.”
Barty is playing her first tournament as No. 1 but has never been past the third round at Wimbledon. She will next face Harriet Dart, a British wild-card entry making her second appearance at Wimbledon.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, No. 9 Sloane Stephens and No. 15 Wang Qiang also advanced to third round. Kvitova beat Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-2, Stephens defeated Wang Yafan 6-0, 6-2, and Wang ousted Tamara Zidansek 6-1, 6-2.
Sam Querrey, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2017, reached the third round in the men’s draw. The unseeded American defeated Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Canada goes into the Women’s World Cup unbeaten this year and having conceded just one goal in eight matches after a 0-0 draw with Spain in its final tournament warm-up match Friday.
The fifth-ranked Canadian women came on as the match progressed, but lacked the final touch. The 13th-ranked Spaniards, who have one final tune-up match against Japan, did little to trouble Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe at Estadio Las Gaunas.
“It was one of these matches of few chances. We got the better ones, though,” said Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
The teams had met just once before, with Spain winning 1-0 in the 2017 Algarve Cup final.
After the match Heiner-Moller had his players gather in a huddle, telling them: “Now this is extra time.” The Canadian women then played a short mini-scrimmage.
“No injuries, a lot of great experience and confidence in defending,” said Heiner-Moller. “We know we need to fine-tune a couple of things but the resilience of seeing a group of players play two 45-minute halfs and then two-times-10 (-minute scrimmages) is pretty amazing.”
Canada’s Christine Sinclair remains three goals back of American Abby Wambach for the all-time international goals record.
World Cup opens against New Zealand
Canada’s World Cup campaign opens June 10 against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier before facing No. 19 New Zealand on June 15 in Grenoble and the eighth-ranked Netherlands on June 20 in Reims.
Spain, which won all eight of its World Cup qualifying matches, is in a group with No. 2 Germany, No 16 China and No. 49 South Africa.
The draw means Canada will go into the World Cup with a 5-0-3 record in 2019, outscoring its opposition 7-1. Canada’s last loss was a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the top-ranked United States in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship last October.
The Canadian women headed to Europe on the heels of a 3-0 win over Mexico on May 18 at Toronto’s BMO Field.
WATCH | Sinclair scores in Canada’s friendly win over Mexico:
Canada blanks Mexico 3-0 in friendly, Christine Sinclair records goal No. 181 of her career. 1:07
Heiner-Moller fielded what looks to be his preferred starting 11 for the tournament with Labbe behind Allysha Chapman, Shelina Zadorsky, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Jessie Fleming, Nichelle Prince, Janine Beckie and captain Christine Sinclair.
The Canadian starting 11 totalled 1,120 caps. Prince, who earned her 50th cap on the day, was the least experienced player.
The Canadians started with a back three flanked by wingbacks, but changed to a back four early in the match in order to get more pressure on the Spaniards.
There were few chances in an even half. Spain came closest with a carefully calculated long-distance shot by Virginia Torrecilla from just inside the Canadian half of the midfield circle in the 26th minute. The shot had Labbe backpeddling and then leaping with a protective hand held high, but the speculative shot went just over the Canadian crossbar.
Schmidt had put a looping shot from outside the penalty box on target a minute earlier, but it went straight at Spanish ‘keeper Lola Gallardo.
Teenage striker Jordyn Huitema came on for Beckie to start the second half. The Canadians had a strong start after the break with Schmidt almost finding Prince with a through ball early on.
Huitema shot just wide in the 57th minute after a deft lay-off from Sinclair off a throw-in deep in the Spanish end. Sinclair, off a Lawrence cross, then sent a header right at Gallardo in the 62nd minute.
Rebecca Quinn, Jayde Riviere and Adriana Leon came on for Schmidt, Chapman and Prince in the 70th minute.
Leon had a chance in the 82nd minute when Lawrence found her in the penalty box, but a sliding Spanish defender blocked her shot.