Canadian Open 2022: Andreescu and Auger-Aliassime keep home fires burning as seeds tumble

Williams bids farewell in Toronto; three British men make milestone wins in Montreal

Bianca Andreescu
Bianca Andreescu (Photo: Leonard Zhukovsky / depositphotos.com)

Few things will linger in the memory from this year’s Canadian Open more than the emotional departure of Serena Williams from the Toronto tournament for the last time.

The hints after her first-round win were clear, and soon confirmed by the publication of her extended Vogue essay hours later. One of tennis’s greatest stars was counting down to retirement in order to focus on her personal and post-tennis life.

There will be more to come as the US Open swing reaches its climax in New York in a few weeks’ time, of course, so for now, lenses and column inches could focus on a few more reasons to remember the events unfolding in Canada.

A preview of the women’s draw highlighted the presence of not one but two Williams sisters—and Venus lost in the first round—but also that there were 15 Major champions and six former Canadian Open titlists in the draw.

By the second round, five Major names had fallen, including Emma Raducanu and Naomi Osaka. By the second round, four more had made their exits, along with the second, fourth, and fifth seeds, Anett Kontaveit, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur—all with first-round byes but then losing their opening matches.

Indeed, seven of the original 16 seeds failed to make their allotted third round spots. But among the unseeded women who are putting a spring in the step of the home fans has been local favourite Bianca Andresscu.

It was in 2019 that the then-teenager won the US Open, having already won both Indian Wells and Toronto, and she beat Williams in the finals in both New York and Toronto. However, she went on to suffer knee and back injuries, and has yet to win another title—though she made the final in Miami last season.

But she returned to Toronto with some good runs on clay and grass this summer, only to find herself amid many big names in the top half of the draw—and with a niggling back issue in her opening loss in San Jose a week ago. Yet the former Toronto champion beat No11 seed and San Jose champion, Daria Kasatkina, in the first round, and then another tricky opponent, Alize Cornet, to win back-to-back matches on a hard court for the first time since last year’s US Open.

The latter match lasted a gruelling two and a half hours. However, Andreescu will be back to open a starry evening session on a schedule in Toronto that begins with Simona Halep, continues with world No1 Iga Swiatek—who, incidentally, scored her 19th straight hard-court win in beating Ajla Tomljanovic—and concludes with Andreescu against Qinwen Zheng, and Belinda Bencic against Garbine Muguruza.

The big matches on Grandstand Court begin with Coco Gauff, who continues to impress this season. The 18-year-old American, who reached her first Major final at Roland Garros, beat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(3). Gauff, who stands at a career-high 11, will next play Aryna Sabalenka for a quarter-final place.

They will be followed onto court by the defending champion, unseeded Camila Giorgi, who put out Raducanu in the first round, against No7 seed Jessica Pegula.

Across in Montreal, where the men’s draw in the Canadian Open is taking place, there was also good news for the home nation. The local-born Felix Auger-Aliassime bucked the trend set by the top three seeds to win his way to the third round via a 7-6(6), 6-4 win over Washington runner-up, Yoshihito Nishioka.

It took the young Canadian, who celebrated his 22nd birthday this week, more than two hours, and he had to find some quality tennis—17 aces for a start—but he had the home fans on their feet. He later spoke of the thrill of receiving such support:

“The crowd here adds something special. I don’t get that anywhere else. Packed stadium, everyone is on their feet trying to support me—it’s special.”

He will play late afternoon in what is a packed schedule on Montreal’s centre court, taking on Briton Cam Norrie, who beat him in three tough sets in the semis of Los Cabos last week.

And Norrie spearheads a stunning line-up for British supporters. For the first time in the Open era, there are three British men in the last 16 at the Canadian Open. What is more, it is only the second time that three British men have made it to the last 16 of a Masters, the other being in Madrid last year: Norrie with Dan Evans and Andy Murray.

But this time, it is not three-time former champion Murray who joins the British trio: He lost in the first round against Taylor Fritz. For just after Norrie scored a quality win over Botic van de Zandschulp, 6-1, 6-2, Evans upset the No5 seed, Andrey Rublev, 6-4, 6-4, in just an hour and a half. His next task is to try and avenge compatriot Murray: Evans will take on Fritz to seal a Masters quarter-final for only the second time. He reached the semis in Monte-Carlo last year.

But arguably the biggest upset came in the shape of 20-year-old Jack Draper, ranked 82, and beating No3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 7-5, 7-6(4), to propel him close to the top 60.

It was the young Briton’s first top-10 win after a series of strong Challenger titles this season, and a semi run at Eastbourne. He said afterwards:

“This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this… Last week, me and my coach probably were thinking we weren’t even going to come here. We were going to maybe train a week, get a bit of confidence. But it paid off!”

Not that things grow any easier: Draper next faces No17 seed Gael Monfils.

However, Tsitsipas was just one among three top seeds to lose at the first hurdle. No2 seed, Carlos Alcaraz, who won both the Madrid and Miami Masters earlier this year, lost to Tommy Paul, 6-7(4), 7-6(7), 6-3, after three hours 20 minutes.

As for world No1 Daniil Medvedev, who won Los Cabos last week, he faced one of the toughest unseeded men in tennis, Nick Kyrgios, in his opener, and lost a thriller, 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-2, after two hours.

It continues a hot streak for Australian Kyrgios, who reached his first Major final at Wimbledon, and came to Montreal after winning the ATP500 in Washington. He next faces compatriot Alex de Minaur, who beat No15 seed seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (4), 7-5.

No4 seed Casper Ruud beat Alex Molcan to face Roberto Bautista Agut, while no7 seed Jannik Sinner beat Adrian Mannarino to face Pablo Carreno Busta.

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