Bianca Andreescu aims to make her mark on clay. TSN’s Michael Gallo provides his five storylines from Roland Garros.
Bianca back in business
Bianca Andreescu has taken the tennis world by storm in 2019. She made her first WTA final in Auckland, she won the 125k series title in Newport Beach and then picked up her maiden WTA title in Indian Wells becoming the first Canadian woman to win a singles title since Eugenie Bouchard won Nuremberg in 2014. All of these results pushed her ranking from No. 107 at the start of the year to a career-high No. 22 the week before Roland Garros. But all of that tennis took a toll on Andreescu’s body. She injuring her shoulder during Indian Wells which carried over to Miami the following week, and a decision was made to take off almost the entire clay season. The 18-year old’s last match was exactly two months ago and she heads into Roland Garros without a WTA main draw clay match under her belt. Andreescu played Roland Garros qualifying last year but lost in the final round, and also played two clay matches in Fed Cup earlier this season winning both. The Canadian opens up her tournament against Lucky Loser No. 121 Marie Bouzkova and she could face the three-time champion Serena Williams in the third round.
Andreescu’s rise was nearly matched by Canada’s other 18-year old phenom Felix Auger-Aliassime. The Montreal native is coming off his second ATP final of the year in Lyon (a city he won back-to-back challengers in 2017 & 2018) and looks poised for his first match win at a grand slam. Auger-Aliassime started the year outside the top-100,. Like Andreescu, the Canadian has reached a career high No. 22. The points he earned playing the week before Roland Garros also helped him surpass Denis Shapovalov for No. 2 in the Canadian rankings, but it may have come at a cost. During his semi-final win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, Auger-Aliassime received treatment on his adductor muscle which appeared to give him problems in his loss to Benoit Paire on Saturday. Regardless of the severity, it is concerning that he was unable to play at 100% during the Lyon final. Canadian tennis fans can hope he is ready to go for his first round match against No. 69 Jordan Thompson on Tuesday. Juan Martin Del Potro would be his possible third round opponent should they both win their first two matches.
Clay court complications
Denis Shapovalov’s clay season hasn’t lived up to the results he had in 2018. He has two match wins compared to six wins at this point last year. After reaching the semi-finals in Madrid last year, he has struggled with the dirt in 2019. It's important to note is the quality of opponents Shapovalov has played this spring. He lost to eventual champion Benoit Paire in Lyon, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Rome, good friend Auger-Aliassime, two-time ATP winner on clay this year Christian Garin in Barcelona & No. 44 Jan-Lennard Struff in Monte Carlo (who happens to be his first round opponent in Paris). Despite the struggles, Shapovalov did win two Davis Cup matches on clay earlier in this year, so he has had some success on the dirt. The Canadian has a tough draw even if he is to get past Struff in the opening round, with No. 15 Borna Coric likely waiting in the third round and Djokovic, a potential fourth-round opponent.
No coach, no pressure for Genie
Eugenie Bouchard joins Andreescu as Canadians who haven't played a match in over two months. The now 25-year old lost in Miami qualifying and did not play one clay match leading into Roland Garros for the first time since 2012. Bouchard has been dealing with an ongoing abdominal injury that she says flared up first in Dubai and continued during the American sunshine swing. She is also now without a coach, splitting with Michael Joyce back in April and is now under the watchful eye of Fed Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh for Roland Garros. Bouchard, now ranked No. 77 in the world, opens up against the No. 27 seed Lesia Tsurenko. Bouchard holds a 1-1 career record vs. Tsurenko.
There is one Canadian going into Roland Garros on a winning note and that is doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski. The 27-year old & partner Julie Xu won the Nuremberg Open on Saturday for the pair’s first title of the year, defeating another Canadian, Toronto’s Sharon Fichman & partner Nicole Melichar in the final. It has been a fantastic clay season for Dabrowski & Xu, who made the semi-finals in Stuttgart before advancing to the final in Madrid. Nuremberg was the 9th career WTA doubles title for Dabrowski, winning at least one every year since 2014. The now No. 11 ranked doubles player is once again Canada’s best shot at a grand slam title in Paris.