Canadians can compete in the French Open |  CBC Sports

Canadians can compete in the French Open | CBC Sports

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The second major race of the tennis season begins Sunday at Roland Garros in Paris – and the 2022 French Open doesn’t seem to lack intrigue.

On the men’s front, Rafael Nadal is looking to extend a record as he sits at 13 French Open titles and 21 Grand Slam titles. Novak Djokovic could threaten the last mark, who may have set himself the record at the Australian Open, but instead was unable to play because he is not immune. Meanwhile, Spanish debutant Carlos Alcaraz, 19, could smash the party with his first major championship.

The women’s category revolves around Poland’s Iga Swiatek, who is playing 28 matches and five consecutive tournaments in France. Also, former top seed Naomi Osaka returned to Roland Garros, the site of her withdrawal last year after she was fined for missing post-match press conferences to protect her mental health.

Meanwhile, five Canadians hold their own hopes for the championship. Here’s what you should know about each of them:

Bianca Andreescu

The 2019 US Open champion is the lowest-ranked among the four Canadians in singles at the French Open. However, betting markets will tell you that Andreescu, at 72nd, presents the country’s best chance of winning it all.

That’s because since the 21-year-old got back in time for the mud season, she’s played like her 19-year-old self with six wins in nine games. Among those victories was a straight set of eliminations by No. 6 Daniel Collins, but the best thing was that Andreescu looked healthy and strong. Even her stunning 2019 campaign was marred by injuries, with the Mississauga, Ontario, national team essentially navigating between lost and winning championships.

Now, Andreescu may have found her groove. And when you’re on it, it’s hard to beat. If she made it to the third round – and would have likely beat No. 14 Belinda Bencic to do so – she would meet fellow Canadian Leyla Fernandez.

Laila Fernandez

Fernandez occupies a solid 17th place, thanks mostly to a 2021 season that saw her astonishing climb to the US Open final, where she lost to Toronto-born Britt Emma Radocano. But Fernandez failed to win more than one match in each of her three tournaments on clay this season.

However, success is not too far in Fernandez’s past: she successfully defended her title at the Mexican Open in March and followed him to the last 16 at Indian Wells. What those hard-court victories mean for the French Open is unclear, but 19-year-old Montrealer has certainly surprised before.

The winner of the potential showdown for the Canadians could meet Osaka and Radokano in the next two rounds.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

Finally, Auger-Aliassime won his first ATP Tour tournament at the Rotterdam Open in February, eliminating the likes of Andy Murray, seventh seed Andre Rublev, and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 21-year-old has reached eight previous finals before finally beating the hump in the Netherlands.

But since then, it’s been ups and downs for the Montreal native. He lost his first game in both the Miami Open and Indian Wells, then struggled through a slow start to the mud season. But lately, Auger-Aliassime appears to have settled into three straight quarter-final matches. His recent loss – 5-7, 6-7 (1) to Djokovic – was perhaps his most encouraging outing since Rotterdam.

Auger-Aliassime could find himself in the rematch against the Serbian in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. But to get there, the Canadian will first have to disappoint hordes of tennis fans by eliminating Nadal in the fourth round.

Denis Shapovalov

Roller Coaster season for Shapovalov makes Auger Eliassim feel like a fun ride. There’s no denying the leftist’s talent, but four years after he broke out in 2018, there is still a lot of unrealized potential for Shapovalov.

There are certainly glimpses of stardom, as Richmond Hill, Ont. , his compatriot recently beat Nadal on clay at the Italian Open. Sure, Nadal had an injury, but he looked relatively strong in previous games and hey, the win over the Spaniard is impressive no matter the circumstances.

But before that victory, Shapovalov’s season resume was essentially bare, dating back to the Australian Open, where she topped No. 3 Alexander Zverev in straight sets. In between, perhaps the most memorable moment of the Canadian campaign was a tantrum directed at both the chair umpire and the fans during the opening round victory in Rome.

Shapovalov had a clearer trajectory during the draw than Auger-Aliassime, arriving at his first major Test in Tsitsipas form in the fourth round.

Gabriella Dabrowski

Dabrowski is the hottest Canadian in tennis right now. Along with Mexican women’s doubles partner Juliana Olmos, the Ottawa-born sixth seed also reached the final in each of her previous tournaments, winning the Madrid Open before dropping the Italian.

It’s probably easier to imagine Dabrowski raising a glass at Roland Garros than any other Canadian.

Read more about the French Open draw here.

2022-05-19 23:59:47

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