• May 29, 2023

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Auger-Aliassime, Andreescu, Shapovalov win opening matches at Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime shrugged off a sluggish start to beat Vasek Pospisil 1-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 in an all-Canadian first-round matchup at the Australian Open on Monday.

Auger-Aliassime will meet Slovakia’s Alex Molcan in the second round. Molcan outlasted Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka 6-7 (3), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in a match that lasted four hours 22 minutes.

Auger-Aliassime, of Montreal, is looking to build off a successful 2022 season. The 22 year old, who was knocked prior to last year for his 0-8 lifetime record in ATP Tour finals, captured four titles in 2022 — including three in a row in October on indoor courts in Europe.

That remarkable run, which included a semifinal triumph over the top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz, catapulted Auger-Aliassime into the lucrative eight-man ATP Finals for the first time. Though he failed to get out of the group stage, a win over Rafael Nadal helped push the Canadian’s season earnings north of $4 million US and lift his ranking to a career-high sixth.

Then, in late November, Auger-Aliassime powered Canada to its first title in the 122-year history of the Davis Cup by winning all three of his singles matches without dropping a set in knockout-round victories over Germany, Italy and Australia.

Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., who missed last year’s Australian Open, made a strong return to Melbourne Park on Sunday with a consecutive-set win over No. 25-ranked Marie Bouzkova of Czechia 6-2, 6-4.

Andreescu, who took one hour, 41 minutes to eliminate the 24-year-old player from Prague, had 23 service winners and only committed eight unforced errors, compared to Bouzkova’s 17.

Andreescu had two aces, two double faults and was good on 87 per cent of her first serves.

She had 12 forehand winners and three on her backhand.

Meanwhile, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., battled for more than two hours to defeat Dusan Lajovic of Belgrade, Serbia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

Shapovalov cruised through the first set, then struggled in the second set and half of the third before finding his groove and finishing off the resilient Lajovic.

Shapovalov had 38 service winners, 16 aces and seven double faults in the two-hour, 20-minute match. He had 23 winners on his forehand, 11 on his backhand had 30 unforced errors compared to Lajovic’s 22.

Meanwhiule, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino, 32, lost to 28-year-old Zhu Lin of China in a battle of seasoned veterans by scores of 6-2, 6-4.

Marino and American Madison Brengle will face the Swiss team of Belinda Bencic and Jill Teichmann.

Leylah Fernandez of Montreal was scheduled to open versus Alize Cornet of France on Tuesday. Toronto’s Katherine Sebov was to make her Grand Slam singles debut against fourth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

Fernandez will team with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in women’s doubles play. They are scheduled to open against the seventh-seeded duo of Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia and China’s Shuai Zhang.

The third-seeded duo of Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos will open against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu and American Shelby Rogers.

Steve Carr

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