Felix Auger-Aliassime, Bianca Andreescu lead Canada’s only hope at the French Open


Published May 26, 2023 1:41 PM ET

Bianca Andreescu of Canada returns in the first set of the match at the Miami Open, March 27, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Florida (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

The Canadian tennis scene has reached new heights in recent years thanks to a young core of domestic talent making their way onto the sport’s biggest stage.

A cooling period seems to have settled in this season. Canada’s top players will try to fix that at the upcoming French Open.

At No. 10, Felix Auger-Aliassime is Canada’s highest seed at the second Grand Slam of the season. Denis Shapovalov, who also helped Canada to the Davis Cup title last fall, is another Canadian in men’s singles at Roland Garros.

Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, leads the Canadian team in the women’s singles. She joins Leylah Fernandez, who reached the final at Flushing Meadows in 2021, and Rebecca Marino.

Following such success there is often a consolidation phase, says longtime tennis broadcaster and former coach of Canada’s Davis Cup team Robert Bettauer. “In the first place, you’re not the hunter anymore, you’re the one being hunted. So you are now a recognized commodity.

“The tour starts figuring out how you play, so it gets more difficult.”

Auger-Aliassime of Montreal and 31st-ranked Shapovalov, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, have both struggled with knee injuries this season. Auger-Aliassime also pulled out of the tune-up event in Lyon due to a shoulder problem, although the withdrawal may have been a precaution.

Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., is ranked 41 in the world while Fernandez, from Laval, Que., is No. 51. Marino, from Vancouver, is ranked 79th in the world.

While their ratings may have dipped a bit lately, it’s easy to forget that Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov, Andreescu and Fernandez are all in their early 20s.

“They are very dangerous players,” said Bettauer, CEO of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. “Any player, if they can get some good wins under their belt, can keep going. It was unrealistic that any of those players could find themselves in the quarter-finals.

“And once you get to the quarter-finals you really give yourself a chance.”

Andreescu was ranked fourth in the world in 2019 while Fernandez achieved a career-high ranking of 13 last August. Auger-Aliassime is at No. November 6th and Shapovalov held the No. 10 in 2020.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal did not return to defend his title this year as the 14-time French Open champion is nursing a hip injury.

No. Newly installed 1 Carlos Alcaraz is the favorite while defending champion Iga Swiatek of Poland headlines the women’s field. He also won the French Open in 2020.

Auger-Aliassime is scheduled to open his match against Italy’s Fabio Fognini and Shapovalov, the 26th seed, will meet American Brandon Nakashima.

Andreescu put in a tough opener against 18th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Fernandez is scheduled to meet 21st seed Magda Linette of Poland and Marino will face Diana Shnaider of Russia.

All Canadian players entered in the qualifying draw were eliminated.

At 18th, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski is the top-ranked Canadian in women’s doubles. She will team up with Brazil’s Luisa Stefani and plans to play mixed doubles with American Nathaniel Lammons.

Fernandez and Marino also plan to play doubles with their respective partners.

The main main draw starts Sunday. The tournament continues until June 11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2023.

Hadwin Floyd

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