June 12, 2024

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Tough draw luck for Canucks at Roland Garros

ROLAND GARROS – Thursday was draw day at Roland Garros, a ceremony that’s fairly formal compared to a lot of tournaments, and also kind of elegant.

It takes a lot less time than it used to, with all of the non-seeds populating the draw electronically before the seeds are drawn by hand.

But at the end of it, the Canadians didn’t exactly come out very lucky.

For Bianca Andreescu, whose ranking dropped on Monday to put her out of the seeds at the last minute, it was definitely not ideal.

The 22-year-old will face No. 18 seed Victoria Azarenka, for the first time in their careers.

Azarenka is a pretty tough first one to have, especially when your Roland Garros experience isn’t significant; Andreescu has only played it three times, and she’s only won two matches.

In 2019 she won her first round after missing a chunk of time after the Miami Open – a two-day marathon that left her unable to answer the bell for her second-round match against Sofia Kenin. She didn’t play against until Rogers Cup in August – which she won.

In 2021, she lost a heartbreaker – 9-7 in the third set to Tamara Zidansek.

In 2022, she defeated Ysaline Bonaventure in three sets, and then lost to Belinda Bencic.

Andreescu didn’t have much prep coming into Paris. She lost her opener in Madrid in three sets to Wang Xiyu. Then, in Rome, she played a late-night match in miserable conditions and took a beating from Marketa Vondrousova, 6-0, 6-1.

The Canadian opted not to add any extra clay to her schedule, which compatriots Leylah Fernandez and Félix Auger-Aliassime both did.

Here’s what Andreescu looked like in practice on Thursday.

The court was reserved under both her name and that of Fernandez, so we were excited to see some all-Canadian hitting. But in the end it was only Andreescu and her hitting partner.

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Marino vs Shnaider

Rebecca Marino can’t be coming to Paris with huge expectations.

After getting some revenge on Zhu Lin in the first round of Madrid (they’re teaming up for doubles here), she lost to Elise Mertens in the second round – and then withdrew from the remainder of planned tournaments on clay leading up to Roland Garros.

Marino in qualifying at RG in 2022.

She faces Diana Shnaider, a Russian lefty who has been combining a college career AND a top-100 pro career. She’s only 19, ranked No. 107 and a career 77-29 in the pros.

FAA vs FabFog

For the second time, playing Lyon the week before Roland Garros, Félix Auger-Aliassime came up hurt.

In 2019, he finished the final against Benoit Paire, but a thigh injury clearly hampered him. And in the end he couldn’t answer the bell for what would have been his Roland Garros debut.

This year, after dropping his openers in both Madrid and Rome, he added Lyon and was the No. 1 seed.

But after beating a qualifier in the second round, a shoulder injury prevented him from playing French wild card Arthur Fils in the quarterfinals Thursday evening.

So he gets on the HGV and comes to Paris with question marks, even as his face is all over the site with his sponsorship from BNP Paribas.

Auger-Aliassime is defending fourth-round points – remember that five-setter against eventual champion Rafael Nadal a year ago?

FAA and the Fog have played once – way, way back in early 2019 when Auger-Aliassime made his run at the Rio 500 tournament on clay. He defeated Fognini 6-2, 6-3 in the first round.

Fernandez vs Linette

Fernandez, who was beaten by American Peyton Stearns in second round of the Rabat, Morocco tournament Wednesday, at least got in some extra matches on clay after a tough month in Madrid and Rome.

She gets No. 21 seed Magda Linette in the first round. And at least she has some positive memories in Paris about that one. Fernandez came back from losing the first set 6-1 to win in three – and it was so cold that evening – it was the fall edition of RG in 2020 – that she actually had a puffy jacket on while she tried to stay warm during Linette’s bathroom break.

Linette beat her a year ago in Charleston, also in three sets.

Shapovalov vs Nakashima

The Canadian is down to the No. 26 seed, with his lack of wins of late. The last time he put together back-to-back victories was at the Australian Open, where he reached the third round.

And after a third-set tiebreak loss to Zhang Zhizhen in Madrid, Shapovalov withdrew from both Rome and Geneva with an ongoing knee issue. But he is in the draw in Paris, set to play American Brandon Nakashima.

Nakashima has had his own injury issues – he’s played just seven tournaments this season, and has just three wins. He lost his openers in both Aix-en-Provence (a Challenger) and Rome in straight sets, to Frenchmen Harold Mayor (No. 241) and Grégoire Barrere (No. 63).

Shapovalov in practice at Roland Garros in 2022.

He looks fairly awkward on the clay, although he has gotten a lot better in the last few years as he took his lumps.

But it’s not a bad outcome for Shapovalov – the only question is whether he’s healthy enough, and if he’ll even play.

They’ve played once – at Wimbledon last year in the second round. And it was Nakashima who won it over the 2016 junior Wimbledon champion.

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