Auger-Aliassime bumps slump to beat qualifier at Barcelona Open
Canada’s young tennis stars, including defending champion Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Annie Fernandez of U.S. Open acclaim are taking to the hard courts at the BNP Paribas Open this week.
Usually held in March, the tournament — dubbed the unofficial fifth Grand Slam — is being played in the fall after being postponed due the COVID-19 pandemic. It runs Monday through Oct. 17.
With the 2020 iteration being among pandemic-driven cancellations, the title defense for Andreescu goes back to 2019 — a victory that marked her first-ever WTA title and launched the then 18-year-old’s breakout season that saw her rankings rise from 152nd at the start of the year to No 5 in December.
She went on to claim the Rogers Cup on home turf as well as the U.S. Open, becoming the first Canadian to collect a Grand Slam singles title. She defeated 23-time major champion Serena Williams in both those victories.
Now 21, the Mississauga, Ont., native returns to the joint ATP 1000 and WTA 1000 event in the California desert that started it all.
This season saw the Canadian struggle with injuries that sidelined her game, a positive COVID-19 test, and some early exits, most recently at the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic.
Andreescu was forced to retire from her only final this year at the Miami Open after she fell and injured her ankle.
Coming along with her is the latest Canadian women’s star Fernandez in her first appearance after her stunning run to the final at the U.S. Open last month.
While the 19-year-old was defeated by British teen Emma Raducanu, their play over the two weeks in Flushing Meadows captured the hearts of the New York crowds.
While the rest of her season was relatively uneventful, there was one other bang: Fernandez secured her first WTA title in March at the Monterrey Open without dropping a set.
Fernandez shot up the WTA rankings, starting at No. 88 and now at 29. Andreescu is ranked at No. 21. Toronto-born Raducanu, who also skyrocketed to No. 22 after beating Fernandez in three sets, also makes her first appearance since the U.S. Open after being granted a wild-card spot.