13th seed Shapovalov leads strong Canadian crew into Australian Open
The main draw for the Australian Open is set and Canadians Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic all find themselves in different quarters for the year's first major.
Shapovalov, the top-ranked Canadian in the tournament, could find himself in tough early in the tournament with Grigor Dimitrov likely looming in the third round and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer potentially awaiting him in the fourth.
The 20-year-old will open his tournament against 66th ranked Marton Fucsovics in the first round and will take on either 79th-ranked Jannik Sinner or a qualifier in the second round, should he advance.
Shapovalov, who won his first career ATP title in Stockholm last fall, enters the tournament coming off a quarter-final loss as the second seed at the ASB Classic in Auckland. Shapovalov was eliminated Thursday in two sets by 57th ranked Ugo Humbert of France in a match that saw the Canadian double fault six times, including twice to finish the match.
Auger-Aliassime enters the Australian Open ranked 20th and will open the major against a qualifier. Barring an upset, he will take on either 54th-ranked Aljaz Bedene or Australia's James Duckworth, ranked 96th, in the second round.
There is a chance of an all-Canadian matchup in the third round, should Vasek Pospisil pull off two early upsets. Pospisil, ranked 146th, will face Croatia's Ivo Karlovic, who enters ranked 123rd in the world, in the first round, with the winner of that match likely taking on 10th-ranked Gael Monfils. Pospisil has a 4-1 career record against Karlovic, making a meeting with Monfils more likely.
If Auger-Aliassime does advance past the third round, he's expected to face another difficult challenge in fifth-ranked Dominic Thiem, who remains in search of his first Grand Slam title.
The 19-year-old is currently gearing up for the major at the Adelaide International, where he advanced to the semifinals on Thursday. The Montreal native breezed by Australia's Alex Bolt in his quarter-final match, dropping just three games en route to a 55-minute victory.
On a conference call with ESPN Thursday, John McEnroe pointed to Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov as two rising stars in the game, though he noted it's unclear whether either is ready to make a run at a major just yet.
"As far as the two guys you mentioned, they're kids, actually. What am I saying? I think both of them are going to win multiple Grand Slams before it's all said and done," McEnroe said. "The question is I don't know if they're quite ready quite at this particular moment to win Australia, but I think their tennis has made some progress. I think the (Mikhail) Youzhny hire was a good one (as Shapovalov's coach), and obviously Felix had a breakthrough year, and there's going to be more pressure and expectation, obviously, but I think both those guys are top-10, top-5 talents not that long down the road.
"I can't wait to see how they develop. I don't think it's going to happen this actual event, but we will see.
Raonic, 29, enters the tournament ranked 35th and will face 48th ranked Radu Albot in his first-round match.
The Thornhill, Ont. native made his return to the court last week in Qatar after a two-month layoff. He was eliminated in straight sets in his first round match at the ExxonMobil Open by 81st ranked Corentin Moutet, though he did push both sets to a tiebreak.
The winner of Raonic's first-round match will face either 36th ranked Cristian Garin or Stefano Travaglia, ranked 75th, in the second round. The most likely opponent for Raonic in the third round, should he advance that far, is sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas, a semifinalist at last year's Australian Open. Roberto Bautista Agut is expected to be waiting in the fourth-round in the fourth section of the draw.
With U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu forced to miss the tournament due to a knee injury, no Canadians received direct entry into the women's main draw. Eugenie Bouchard and Leylah Annie Fernandez, however, remain alive in qualifying to enter the main draw.
The schedule for play has not yet been set, but coverage of the Australian Open will begin Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on TSN.