Auger-Aliassime not dwelling on last year's US Open retirement
Michael Gallo shares five Canadian storylines heading into the US Open, which begins Monday on TSN:
1.Andreescu doubles down
It’s hard to believe what Bianca Andreescu has accomplished this year. Arguably the biggest Canadian sports story in 2019, the now 19-year old not only won Indian Wells for her first WTA title, but backed that up winning the Rogers Cup in her home country just a few months later. She became the first Canadian to win multiple singles titles since Carling Bassett-Seguso in 1987 and her ranking has skyrocketed all the way up to a career high No. 14 in the world (currently No. 15 heading into the US Open). The rankings jump has been so impressive, especially with only playing one grand slam match at Roland Garros and Wimbledon this summer combined. Andreescu ended 2018 at No. 152 and no player has had a higher boost in the rankings that sits in the top-50. She smartly withdrew from Cincinnati after her win in Toronto and goes into her first U.S. Open main draw fresh against opening round opponent Katie Volynets (a player ranked outside the top-400). What would really set off fireworks in the women’s draw – a potential fourth-round encounter with Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, whom Andreescu has looked up to her entire career. Expectations could not be higher for the Canadian and fans are anxious to see her hit the court at Flushing Meadows.
2.Déjà vu all over again
We’ve been here before. Denis Shapovalov vs Felix Auger-Aliassime – first round of the US Open. Last year, it was Auger-Aliassime’s much anticipated grand slam debut that ended in a disappointing retirement when he had heart complications, but with that health scare now firmly behind him, Canadian fans get another dose of their top young male talents against each other. Yes, the unfortunate part is that one of them will be out in the first round, but on the plus side, it’s such a great scene to see two close friends battle it out on the court at such a high level. Auger-Aliassime, now the top ranked Canadian at a career-high No. 19 in the world, is having a hard-court season with mixed results. He lost in the round of 16 in both Washington and Montreal before a disappointing first round loss to fellow next-gen start Miomir Kecmanovic, where his level was much lower than it was during the grass season. As for Shapovalov, his decision to play Winston-Salem the week before the U.S. Open began turned out to be an incredibly good one. The 20-year old won consecutive matches for the first time since March including a win over the in-form Kecmanovic en route to a semi-final result. Shapovalov had lost 11 of 15 matches over the summer and needed to find his rhythm and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Richmond Hill, Ont., native comes into New York unseeded at a slam for the first time since last year’s Australian Open, and may not have the upper-hand in this match after Auger-Aliassime won their second career meeting earlier this year in Madrid. The match on Tuesday is likely to have the whole country buzzing.
3. Hoping for a healthy Milos
Milos Raonic played just four hard-court matches in two tournaments leading up to the US Open and unfortunately it was another back injury that prevented him from playing in Cincinnati. The 28-year old had to retire during the all-Canadian blockbuster match against Auger-Aliassime in Montreal, doing so after winning the second set. Two weeks off since and Raonic is hoping to put that injury behind him, but mentioned in his pre-tournament media availability that it has been flaring up from time to time. He's been handed one of the more difficult first round match-ups in the tournament, having to play No. 69 Nicolas Jarry, who is coming off his first career ATP Tour title in Sweden last month. The No. 22 seeded Canadian did however land in one of the more favourable sections, as the out-of-form Borna Coric and Kei Nishikori are potential third and fourth-round opponents.
4. Difficult Draws
Vasek Pospisil used his protected ranking to make the U.S. Open while Brayden Schnur, now ranked at a career high No. 92, just snuck into the main draw. Its Schnur’s first time getting direct entry into a grand slam after getting into Wimbledon earlier this summer as a lucky loser. The Pickering, Ont., native is having a career-year that was highlighted from making the New York Open final and after nasal surgery in the late spring, he’s back on track with a challenger final in Winnipeg and qualified for the main draw in Washington. Schnur does have a very difficult first-round match against Benoit Paire, who just made the final this week in Winston-Salem. As for Pospisil, it’s been a challenging return to the ATP tour after back surgery - he’s won just two of six matches, both coming at the challenger level on home soil. He was also dealt a tough first-round match as he faces No. 9 seed Karen Khachanov – a player who has only lost once in the first round of a grand slam.
5. Genie trying to turn things around
This year has been a rough ride for Eugenie Bouchard. Coming into the final grand slam of the year, she's riding an 11-match losing streak that dates all the way back to February. Her six wins at this point of the season are the lowest she's had since turning professional, but the year has been more of a transition phase as she is working towards a successful 2020. No longer with coach Michael Joyce, Bouchard has teamed up with Jorge Todero who provides an "old school" approach that the Canadian has welcomed. The former No. 5 player in the world had her ranking dip to outside the top-100 for the first time this year and just sneaked into the main draw in New York, otherwise she would have had to go through qualifying like she successfully did in 2018. A tough first round match-up against No. 12 seed Anastasija Sevastova awaits - a player that Bouchard has played three times. Sevastova won their two most recent matches in 2017 while the Canadian was victorious in the only hard-court meeting in 2016.