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Canada's Auger-Aliassime to open against a qualifier at National Bank Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime Felix Auger-Aliassime - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — A field stacked with most of the ATP Tour's top young stars — anchored by top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz — has National Bank Open tournament director Karl Hale feeling bullish about the 2023 edition of the event.

"It's just a blockbuster draw with some great, great matches," Hale said Friday after the matchups were finalized.

The so-called Big Three were mainstays at this Masters 1000 Series competition for years. But Roger Federer has retired, Rafael Nadal is injured and Novak Djokovic is out due to fatigue.

That gives Alcaraz — who recently outlasted Djokovic to win his first Wimbledon title — as the main headliner in a 56-man draw that includes fellow youngsters Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, Italy's Jannik Sinner, Denmark's Holger Rune and Norway's Casper Ruud.

"We've kind of moved from the Big Three to the next generation with Novak still holding on," Hale said. "It's a new era."

Nine of the top 10 players in the ATP Tour world rankings are entered in the US$7.62-million tournament.

Auger-Aliassime, the world No. 12, is the highest-seeded Canadian at No. 10. He'll play a qualifier in his opening match at Sobeys Stadium.

A knee injury forced Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., to withdraw earlier in the week but there are four Canadian wild-card entries in the field. One of those spots went to local favourite Milos Raonic of nearby Thornhill, Ont.

Raonic, who's playing his third tournament since returning from an extended injury absence, will open against ninth-seeded American Frances Tiafoe.

"Milos was No. 3 in the world, (made) the final of Wimbledon, essentially (was) top 10 for 10 years," Hale said. "He's the one that paved the way for all of our Canadian players to do so well."

Montreal's Gabriel Diallo will open against Britain's Daniel Evans and Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., will meet a qualifier. Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., will take on Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.

Sinner, who attended the draw with Galarneau at a downtown hotel, recently trained with Raonic in preparation for the tournament.

"He's very dangerous on these hard courts," Sinner said of the 32-year-old Canadian. "The ball is bouncing quite high so it's tough to play against him. The crowd can make a lot happen, especially in the first round. It's never easy."

The top eight seeds received first-round byes. Alcaraz could meet Rune in the quarterfinals and Sinner could face Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the same round.

The qualifying draw is set to begin Saturday morning. Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., is one of five Canadians entered in the 28-player field.

Eight qualifier spots will be available in the main draw.

Members of the Canadian team that won the 2022 Davis Cup will be feted on centre court in an opening night ceremony on Monday.

Play continues through Aug. 13.

Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta topped Poland's Hubert Hurkacz in last year's final in Montreal. The National Bank Open women's event will be played this year at IGA Stadium in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2023.