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Marino will play for singles bronze at Pan Am Games

Canada's Rebecca Marino Canada's Rebecca Marino - The Canadian Press

SANTIAGO — Rebecca Marino left her first Pan American Games on crutches. She wants to leave her second with a medal.

The latter was still on the table for the Canadian tennis player despite Saturday's 6-1, 6-4 semifinal loss to Argentina's Maria Lourdes Carle. The loss halted Marino's run of three straight wins to reach medal contention in Santiago, Chile.

The 32-year-old pro faces Argentina's Julia Riera for the bronze medal on the Tennis Sports Center's clay courts Sunday. Canada has yet to win a women's singles tennis medal in 72 years of the Pan American Games.

"Everyone wants a Pan Am medal here," Marino said. "My roommates are cyclists. They won some medals and it means a lot. Not many people can say that they're a Pan Am medallist, so if I can get that, that's fantastic."

Reaching the final would have provisionally qualified Marino, ranked No. 166 in the world, for next summer's Olympic Games in Paris.

"It's definitely disappointing losing the match today. I know what was on the line. It was a ticket to Paris," she said. "There's a lot of emotion with that."

Carle and top-seeded Laura Pigossi of Brazil, who was 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) winner over Riera, earned Paris berths and will clash for gold Sunday.

Marino lost her first-round match and sustained a torn plantar fascia at the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru. She was sidelined for 18 months.

"Lima, I left in crutches, so this one I'll say is a better experience," she said.

After dropping an error-filled first set 6-1 to Carle, who is ranked 146th in the world, the second-seeded Marino smacked her hand on the net post in frustration en route to her chair.

The Canadian led 3-1 in the second, but the third-seeded Carle kept the pressure on to overtake Marino and break her serve for the match with a superior clay-court game.

"My opponent was a really solid clay-courter. I play more hard court as a Canadian," Marino said. "She hit the ground running and didn't give me much room to breathe, or to try to find my game.

"My primary goal was to try to be a little bit more aggressive as the match continued and find my footing and find my confidence. I felt like I did a good job of that, but it was a little too late. She really stepped it up in that last game. She did a good job of utilizing the surface and using a heavy ball to move me around."

Marino's tennis backstory is unique. Citing both depression and frustration with cyberbullying, she retired at the age of 22 after reaching a career-high world ranking of 38th in 2011.

She coached tennis, went to school at the University of British Columbia and rowed for Thunderbirds' women's eight. Marino returned to professional tennis after a five-year hiatus.

Since recovering from her Lima injury, Marino has appeared in 10 Grand Slam main draws via either qualifying or ranking. She reached the third round of the 2021 National Bank Open in Montreal for her career-best result.

Marino's second tennis life has given her chances to carry on a family tradition of representing Canada in multi-sport Games.

Her cousin Briana Scott will race the women's 5,000 metres at the track Thursday in Santiago. Her uncle George Hungerford won Olympic rowing gold with Roger Jackson in 1964.

"He has two nieces here now," Marino said. "These are really special events. It's only every four years."

Both semifinal losers in Pan Am tennis were awarded bronze medals between 1987 and 2003, but bronze-medal matches have been played since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Canada was held off the tennis podium four years ago in Lima.

"There's still a bronze-medal match to go," Marino said. "I think I've shown that Canadians can play on clay.

"After the match today, I still feel really confident with my level. I did everything I could and I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow in that match. Leave everything on the court. That's sort of why I'm here."

Also on Saturday, Canadian judoka Julien Frascadore, of Quebec City, claimed silver in the men's under-66 kg division at the Pan American Games on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Frascadore was defeated by Venezuela’s Willis Garcia in the title bout.

It took just 40 seconds for Garcia to throw Frascadore on his back, resulting in Ippon and an immediate end to the match.

“Right after the final it’s hard to accept. It’s hard to lose like that but I think with time I’ll appreciate this medal, I’ll be happy with the result,” said Frascadore. “I fought him once before, it was almost the same result so I knew he was pretty strong in the first two minutes, but I didn’t manage to do the strategy this time.”

Frascadore won gold in the same event at last month’s Pan American-Oceania Judo Championships in Calgary.

Four Canadians advanced to the semifinals of the men’s and women’s canoe-kayak events.

Lois Betteridge ranks second in the women’s C-1 heats while Léa Baldoni was ranked third after the women’s K-1 heats. Her brother Alex Baldoni is ranked third in the men’s C-1 heats and Maël Rivard was fourth in the men’s K-1 heats.

“After two races I’m feeling a bit tired, but I feel good,” said Léa, the older of the Baldoni siblings. “Lots of good feelings on the water, it was smooth. Technically, too, it was good. I’m excited for tomorrow, the semifinals and the final, it’s gonna be fun.”

The semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday, along with the semifinals and finals of kayak cross, while will make its Olympic debut in Paris.

Following two days of competition, the Canadian equestion quartet of Michael Winter, Colleen Loach, Lindsay Traisnel, and Karl Slezak sits in third place behind the United States and Brazil.

The eventing competition concludes Sunday with the jumping test.

Canada has won 88 medals (32 gold, 26 silver, 30 bronze) after eight days of competition.

The U.S. leads the medal standings with 154, including 61 gold.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.