February 27, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Three Canadians remain for final round of AO qualies

MELBOURNE, Australia – On the plus side, three Canadians remain out of the five in the men’s and women’s qualifying draws, as the third and final round is played Friday.

On the negative side, two of them will play each other.

On the plus side, that guarantees at least one Canadian will join Leylah Fernandez, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic in the singles main draws.

Rebecca Marino and Katherine Sebov will meet Friday, with the winner making the big show.

Zhao out on Wednesday to Volynets

Carol Zhao was the only Canadian to play her second-round match on Wednesday. And she faced No. 3 seed Katie Volynets.

Volynets just was too solid for Zhao to get through her, although the match felt close than the 6-1, 6-3 final score.

Zhao tried to get more aggressive in the second set, and had some success. But that aggressiveness also created more errors. Volynets was rock-solid throughout.

Here’s what it looked like.

Marino rolls in three over Ponchet

The rest of the Canadians played Thursday – all at 10 a.m., as the schedulers really did Canada a solid (not really).

As in her first-round match, Marino got off to a slow start. And indeed, she fell victim to France’s Jessika Ponchet and her funky game in the first set.

But she recovered nicely; winning 6-7 (5), 6-4 6-2 and moving into the final round against Sebov.

Drama as Sebov wins over retiring Bonaventure

For Sebov, who qualified impressively here a year ago, there was a fair bit of angst on Court 1573 as she took on veteran Belgian lefty Ysaline Bonaventure.

Bonaventure took a mental health break last year. And as she returns to play she definitely was battling some demons – in two languages, even as she was slugging the ball.

Things got complicated at the end of the first set, when Sebov was dinged for a serve-clock violation.

She did not take it well.

Sebov didn’t REALLY have a case, as the umpire seemed to take that distance into consideration and didn’t even start the 25-second clock until the players reached the towel baskets.

But Sebov argued this through the 60-second changeover, and even beyond as Bonaventure walked right through her argument with the chair umpire to go take her position on the court.

Finally, she got on with it. And she was able to reset as Bonaventure gradually lost her bearings. And in the end, down 0-4 in the third set, the Belgian retired with an apparent knee issue.

Bonaventure posted on social media that the left knee issue popped up seven weeks ago, as she came back to play after the break. This was her first tournament in six months.

The two are eight years apart in age, not part of the same Canadian generation. But they have met twice before.

The most recent was last summer in Granby, when Sebov pulled out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win. But Marino is a lot healthier now than she was last summer. So could be a different ballgame.

They also played indoors in 2019, at the Midland ITF (now a WTA 125). Marino won 6-3, 6-2.

Diallo pulls out energizing win

Herbert was up 5-2 in the third. But Diallo held, broke when Herbert served for it at 5-3, and held again as all of a sudden it was 5-5 and all bets were off.

It was a messy match, without much rhythm. But Diallo won it, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) to advance to the final round.

There was far too much drama in the deciding tiebreak (more on that below). But that sudden death is an experience Diallo has already had – in the first round of qualifying against Kimmer Coppejans at the US Open.

He seemed to have that one in the bag, until he didn’t. And he lost it 11-9

This time, he DID have it in the bag. And then he had to secure the bag AGAIN because of an umpire’s error.

Seven points … No, TEN to win

It’s possible that your dedicated Open Court servant was the only one in Court 3 who knew, when Diallo led the match tiebreak 7-5, that it wasn’t over.

Here’s a whole lot more on THAT drama, which was pretty intense.

On Friday, Diallo meets veteran David Goffin for a shot at his first Grand Slam main draw. It’s his first time into the final round of a major, after losing in the first or second round of all four in 2023.

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