Although the Australian Open main draw doesn’t begin until next week, Canadian tennis fans have lots to look forward to in the coming days. Genie, Milos and Denis all have their spots confirmed in Melbourne, but six other Canadian players will be fighting for a chance to join their compatriots in the main draw of the first Grand Slam of the year.
After qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw at the US Open last fall, Félix Auger-Aliassime back at it again in Melbourne. His performance in New York capped off an impressive 2018 season which saw him make his ATP main draw debut in Rotterdam, win his first ATP level match against compatriot Vasek Pospisil in Indian Wells and capture two singles Challenger titles. At only 18 years of age, the Quebec native is becoming a household name in tennis, as many of his achievements place him in the ATP record books. And his career 2018 season is just the beginning for this young player.
He has his sights set on breaking into the Top 100, as he begins the year at a career-high ranking of no. 106. The second seed in qualies, Auger-Aliassime will take on Arthur De Greef of Belgium tonight in Melbourne. He will play in the fourth match on court no. 12, forecast to begin around 9:50 p.m.
LL-SLAM COMPLETE ✌🏻PEACE OUT pic.twitter.com/dcbRSclLDv
— Peter Polansky (@PPolansky) August 24, 2018
Peter Polansky was another Canadian who set a record in 2018, but it was a rather peculiar one… He became the first player to enter the main draw at all four Grand Slams thanks to being granted a Lucky Loser entry. Polansky lost in the final round of qualifications in Australia, France, England and the US, but managed to play first round matches in all of the tournaments.
Hoping his luck will continue into 2019, Polansky will go up against American and former world no. 67 Ernesto Escobedo in the opening round of qualies. A current member of the group of American Next Gen players, Escobedo will present a tough challenge for the Canadian. Follow along as both players battle for a spot in the second round.
Brayden Schnur is hoping that his luck at Grand Slams will improve in 2019, as he fell in the first round of qualifications at the Australian Open last year. He has the momentum to vie for a spot in the main draw, as he ended his 2018 campaign on a high note, reaching two back-to-back Challenger semi-finals in India. These performances helped him rise to a career-high ranking of no. 172 in December.
— Brayden Schnur (@BraydenSchnur) January 2, 2019
He plays his opening round match on the second day of qualies action (Wednesday in Australia, Tuesday in Eastern Canada) against Kamil Majchrzak of Poland. The Canadian possible opponents in the following rounds of qualifying include the 28th seed Noah Rubin and the 15th seed Yannick Madden. Among the many fans who will be cheering him on will be his mom, who made the long trip to Australia to encourage her son.
All eyes will be on Bianca Andreescu who is coming off a stunning week at the ASB Classic in New Zealand. The 18-year-old Canadian claimed wins over reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and 2003 & 2017 Australian Open runner-up Venus Williams last week… all of which is to say that Andreescu knows what it takes to beat the best from Down Under.
The No. 4-seeded teenager faces off against good friend Katie Swan of Great Britain, with whom she was a former top-ranked junior a few years ago. Although they’ve never met at the pro level, their junior head-to-head is tied at one apiece, with each player claiming a win on home soil. The only other seed in Andreescu’s relatively light section is Tereza Smitkova, although former Top 50 player and two-time Grand Slam doubles champ Lucie Hradecka could be a potential final-round opponent.
Can Bianca recover from her Auckland heroics in time to win three matches and make the Australian Open main draw?
Big-hitting Katherine Sebov had a phenomenal end to 2018, claiming the ITF 60k title in Saguenay, Quebec and boosting her world ranking to its current career-high of No. 202.
She’s in an interesting section of the draw, which includes two Australian wild card entrants and 2015 junior US Open champion Marie Bouzkova. Sebov opens her qualifying campaign against France’s Jessika Ponchet who played her first Grand Slam main draw last year in Melbourne as her country’s reciprocal wild card recipient. She lost to Garbine Muguruza in the first round, 6-4, 6-3.
Sebov will be playing in her first-ever Grand Slam qualifying draw and will seek to imitate Denis Shapovalov, who fought through his first-ever qualies to reach the main draw (2017 US Open).
Rebecca Marino hasn’t enjoyed the perfect start to the new season. Sidelined at the end of 2018 by a minor back injury, she was unable to enter any events leading up to the Australian Open, but appears to be fit and ready to compete as she tackles Melbourne for the first time since 2013.
Her first-round opponent is American No. 19 seed Caroline Dolehide, a versatile player with a serve nearly as monstrous as Marino’s. Expect there to be plenty of short points in this all-North American clash. Should Marino pass this first test, her draw opens up — however, talented teenagers Olga Danilovic and Iga Swiatek potentially loom in the third round.
Back at a slam, c’mon! 💪If you’re in Melbourne, come out and support ya girl! 🇨🇦❤️ pic.twitter.com/HWmymCsTiy
— Rebecca Marino (@beccamarino90) January 7, 2019
(Feature photo: AP Photo/Chris Symes)