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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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The final Grand Slam of the tennis season will start next week in New York and there are plenty of compelling Canadian storylines. Here's where our nation's top players stand heading into the US Open. 

 

 

Bianca Andreescu 

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WTA ranking: 7
2020 US Open: Did not play 
Best US Open: Champion in 2019 

Andreescu returns to Flushing Meadows for the first time since defeating Serena Williams in 2019 to become Canada's first Grand Slam singles champion. 

"It's definitely going to be very emotional," she said.

Bothered by a bruised toe, Andreescu lost her second match in Montreal before dropping her opener in Cincinnati last week. The 21-year-old doesn't expect the injury to be an issue at the US Open. 

"The doctor thinks it's going to be good," Andreescu said after losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova on Wednesday. "It was up to debate whether or not I should play this tournament ... I tried to play, which I'm super happy about because I got another match under my belt, but it definitely bothered me a little bit."

There's much for Andreescu and new coach Sven Groeneveld, who's with her on a trial basis, to address when they get back on court.

"I want to continue working on my serve and also combination shots, meaning serve and then the next shot or coming to the net, attack volley, that kind of stuff," Andreescu said. "And continue to work on the mental side of things on court, like focusing on my routines, on my habits, and trying to stay positive out there."

 

Denis Shapovalov 

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ATP ranking: 10
2020 US Open: Quarter-finals (defeated by Pablo Carreno Busta)
Best US Open: Quarter-finals last year 

Shapovalov recorded his best Grand Slam result at Wimbledon, where he gave Novak Djokovic a real fight before falling in the semifinals. He has lost three straight matches since that emotional breakthrough at the All England Club. 

The most recent result, a three-set loss to Benoit Paire in Cincinnati, left the 22-year-old fuming. Shapovalov was twice up a break in the final set but couldn't finish off the Frenchman. 

"I beat myself," Shapovalov said moments after leaving the court. "Today was pretty terrible, so just going to review with my team and see what changes I can make."

The US Open tends to bring out the best in Shapovalov. He is 11-4 at the USTA National Tennis Center and has never lost before the third round.

With Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem sidelined by injury, Shapovalov will move up and be a top-eight seed for the first time at a major.  

 

Felix Auger-Aliassime 

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ATP ranking: 15
2020 US Open: Fourth round (defeated by eventual champion Thiem)
Best US Open: Fourth round last year 

Auger-Aliassime arrives in New York as Canada's in-form singles player having made the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. It was his best result at a Masters 1000 event since reaching the semifinals in Miami as a qualifier in 2019.  

"All the stars were aligned in Miami that time and then I realized after that it was tougher than I thought to make semifinals of Masters," Auger-Aliassime said with a smile after beating good friend Matteo Berrettini in the third round. "The big key for me is it's always a work in progress. Every week is different. Every week is a new start. That's what I've learned, and I've been able to really reset well this week."

The Montreal native dropped a three-setter against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday night. It was his fifth straight loss to the Greek star. 

"He creates problems against me," Auger-Aliassime admitted. "He's improved a lot. I need to look myself in the mirror and see what I can improve. These type of matches make me want to go back and be better. I want to be winning these type of matches in the future and I'll do what I have to do to get there."

Auger-Aliassime took a medical timeout in the second set to deal with what he described as tension in his lower back. He's confident that, with some rest and recovery, it won't be an issue moving forward. 

Per coach Frederic Fontang, Toni Nadal will join Team Auger-Aliassime in New York this week as they gear up for the US Open. 

 

Milos Raonic 

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ATP ranking: 34
2020 US Open: Second round (defeated by Vasek Pospisil)
Best US Open: Fourth round in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018

The injury-plagued Raonic hasn't played since losing to Brandon Nakashima in his first match in Atlanta in late July. That's his only tour appearance since reaching the round of 16 at the Miami Open in March. 

In announcing Raonic's withdrawal, Cincinnati organizers said the 30-year-old was dealing with a "heel" issue. TSN is told Raonic is due to arrive in New York on Tuesday and will decide on his status for the tournament later in the week. 

Raonic dropped 10 spots in the latest rankings after the points from making the Western & Southern Open final last year came off his total, but he would still sneak in as a seed at the US Open. 

 

Vasek Pospisil 

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ATP ranking: 57
2020 US Open: Fourth round (defeated by Alex de Minaur)
Best US Open: Fourth round last year 

After being named the ATP's comeback player of the year in 2020, Pospisil has struggled to build momentum this season. Most recently, he lost to Corentin Moutet in the first round of qualifying at Cincinnati. 

"I haven't had the most stable year with my team and training and a lot of things going on off court," Pospisil said prior to his first-round loss to Tommy Paul in Toronto. "A lot of distractions professionally, personally."

Off the court, Pospisil has been a driving force in getting the new Professional Tennis Players Association up and running, which has required a lot of energy. 

Pospisil will have a new coach at the US Open. Former ATP pro Vincent Millot, who retired a couple years ago, will be with him in New York. The pair officially started their partnership on Monday.

Pospisil's regular coach, Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic, is staying home with his wife, who is due to give birth soon. 

 

Leylah Annie Fernandez 

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WTA ranking: 72
2020 US Open: Second round (defeated by Sofia Kenin) 
Best US Open: Second round last year 

For the second straight year, Fernandez qualified for the Western & Southern Open, but was left disappointed by her performance in a 6-2, 6-2 first-round loss to Alison Riske. 

"She played a good game," Fernandez said of the 31-year-old American. "She didn't make many mistakes and I, unfortunately, did. I wanted to be offensive, and I just made mistakes when I shouldn't have made them, and she took advantage. She jumped on it."

The match was delayed by rain and didn't start until 10:25 p.m., but Fernandez refused to use that as an excuse. 

"I thought I had good preparation," the teenager said. "We relaxed all morning knowing it was going to be a long day. It was a little bit longer than we expected, but it didn't matter. I just didn't play good."

Fernandez, who will celebrate her 19th birthday on Sept. 6, has not posted consecutive main-draw match wins since claiming her maiden title in Monterrey, Mexico in March. 

This will be her second career US Open appearance. 

 

Rebecca Marino 

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WTA ranking: 175
2020 US Open: Did not play 
Best US Open: Second round in 2010 

Marino will be among a handful of Canadians looking to earn their way into the main draw through the qualifying event, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. 

Marino authored the best singles performance by a Canadian player during the ATP/WTA events in Toronto and Montreal this summer. She upset No. 26 Madison Keys and No. 31 Paula Badosa before bowing out in the third round against top seed Aryna Sabalenka. It was the first time Marino beat top-40 players since coming out of retirement in 2018. 

Marino hasn't played in the US Open since losing in the first round in 2011. 

"It's kind of crazy," the 30-year-old from Vancouver said with a laugh. "The past couple years I haven't been able to play the US Open based on where my ranking was or due to an injury, so it's been quite a while since I've been to New York. I have some amazing memories there."

Back in 2010, Marino faced Venus Williams at Arthur Ashe Stadium and gave the American star a tough test in the second round, falling 7-6, 6-3. 

"I didn't feel nervous," Marino recalled. "I wasn't really scared, and I went out and performed and played really well. So, almost like a sense of ease being on centre court there. I'm hoping to get that feeling again."

Marino qualified and won a match at the Australian Open earlier this season. It was her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam since 2013.

 

 

Gaby Dabrowski 

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WTA ranking: 11
2020 US Open: Quarter-finals (defeated by Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad)
Best US Open: Quarter-finals in 2017, 2019, 2020

Canada's best bet for a trophy may be in doubles. Dabrowski has something special going with new partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil. The duo have made the final in three straight events and claimed the title in Montreal. 

"Winning a lot of matches is helpful with confidence," Dabrowski noted Saturday night after dropping the final in Cincinnati to Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai. "I've probably won just about as many matches in the last three weeks as I have all year so, for me, that's a really big positive."

Prior to this 12-2 hot streak, Dabrowski only recorded 13 wins this season while playing alongside 10 different partners.

Dabrowski's chemistry was evident with Stefani last season when they made the final in Ostrava, and it has only grown since they reunited after the Olympics. 

"I love playing with someone who can volley well," the 29-year-old from Ottawa said. "I think that helps our game styles jell together pretty well. Also, we're good friends so we support each other no matter what, which is really nice." 

The pair also share the same training base at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, where they have now returned to do some final preparations for the US Open. 

Canada's Dabrowski rides wave of confidence into US Open

Canada's Gaby Dabrowski and Brazil's Luisa Stefani are on a roll having made the final in three straight WTA events and winning it all in Montreal last week. After dropping Saturday's match to Zhang Shuai and Samantha Stosur in Cincinnati, Dabrowski spoke to TSN about her growing confidence and the great chemistry with Stefani. Plus, the Ottawa native revealed her US Open preparation plan.

TSN's live coverage of the US Open starts next Monday at 11 a.m. ET. Mark Roe (@MarkRoeTv) will be hosting and reporting from New York.