Photo : @rolandgarros
Day one of Roland-Garros was a big one for the Canadians with Félix Auger-Aliassime and Leylah Annie Fernandez both kicking off their campaigns, while Rebecca Marino’s tournament came to an end.
Auger-Aliassime and Fernandez had very different opening round matches, with Fernandez advancing relatively easily while her fellow Montrealer had to battle to claim his first win at the season’s second Slam. Marino, however, was burdened with a difficult draw and was unable to keep up a high level after a strong start.
After consecutive first-round losses at Roland-Garros and then going down two sets to love in his 2022 opener, it appeared that Auger-Aliassime was going to have to wait another year to get his first ever match win at the French Open.
But the Canadian had other ideas, mounting a thrilling comeback to avoid an opening-day upset at the hands of qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas and reach the second round of Roland-Garros for the first time in his career with a 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
It is the Canadian’s first ever win from two sets down in a best-of-five match.
The first two sets were dominated by Varillas, who was cruising on serve, not facing a break point and only losing 11 total points in his own service games. He broke Auger-Aliassime to take early leads in both sets, only needing an hour and 20 minutes to grab a two-set lead.
It did not take long in the third set for Auger-Aliassime to start turning the match around. He created his first break point of the match at 2-1 and converted to take his first lead of the day. That was part of a five-game run as the Canadian raced through the third set.
He continued to roll in the fourth as Varillas looked to be running out of gas. Auger-Aliassime was now able to move in on return and play his way into the Peruvian’s games. His reward was a break in the opening game to take the lead in the fourth set. He broke again to send the match to a decider.
Unlike the previous two sets, the decisive break came late in the set. With Varillas serving at 3-4, Auger-Aliassime took a 0-40 lead and while he failed to convert the first three break points, he ripped an inside-out forehand winner to claim the break at the fourth time of asking.
Auger-Aliassime finished the match with 14 aces and won 83 percent of his first serve points. He also crushed 52 winners, more than double his opponent, although he also committed 44 unforced errors.
After not having a single break point in the first set, he converted his first four in the third and fourth, finishing the day 5-for-8. He saved four of nine.
In round two, Auger-Aliassime will meet another qualifier, Camilo Ugo Carabelli.
Fernandez starts and finishes strong
While the French Open has historically been one of the more difficult majors for Canadian players, Leylah Annie Fernandez is proving to be an exception.
The 19-year-old remains perfect in first-round matches at Roland-Garros, improving to 3-0 in her openers after beating Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets.
Fernandez reached the third round in her 2020 debut and the second round at last year’s event.
Wrapping up the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Fernandez got off to a quick start before needing to beat back a comeback effort from her French opponent, starting and finishing strong in a 6-0, 7-5 victory.
23 winners to just 17 unforced errors helped Fernandez hang on to reach the second round. She also benefitted from 30 unforced errors from her opponent, as well as 10 double faults. The Canadian was strong on break points, converting six of her nine opportunities while saving seven of nine against her own serve.
There was none of the traditional Fernandez drama early in her clash with Mladenovic, as the former Roland-Garros junior champion exploded out of the gate, racing through the opening set in just 29 minutes. The Canadian capped off the set with her third break when a desperation lob from Fernandez drew a missed smash from the Frenchwoman on set point.
Things got a little dicey when Mladenovic turned up the heat at the start of the second set, breaking in each of Fernandez’s first two service games to go up 3-0. However, the Canadian broke in the fourth game to keep the deficit at just one break.
Mladenovic had a chance to extend the match, going up 5-3 and holding a pair of set points on Fernandez’s serve in the ninth game, but the Canadian was able to hang on before turning on the afterburners.
Having twice been a point away from being pushed to a third set, Fernandez re-asserted her control of the match, breaking Mladenovic as she served for the set and again as she served to stay alive, winning four straight games from 3-5 down in the second set to take the set 7-5 and book her place in the second round.
Next up for Fernandez is current doubles world No. 1 Katerina Siniakova. An all-Canadian meeting with Bianca Andreescu potentially looms in the third round.
Marino can’t keep up with Gauff
Just getting into the main draw was an accomplishment for Rebecca Marino, who had lost in qualifying in her last two trips to Paris in 2019 and 2021.
Unfortunately, after winning three qualifying matches, the draw was not kind to the Canadian veteran who was beaten in the first round by 18th seed Coco Gauff.
Once the American found her footing after a back-and-forth opening set, Marino was no match for the rising star who ousted the Canadian 7-5, 6-0.
Despite 10 double faults from Gauff, Marino was only able to convert two of 12 break points in the match. She also did herself few favours by committing 40 unforced errors to just 21 winners.
The first set was a roller coaster, starting out with Marino breaking serve in the opening game only for Gauff to break right back. After the American saved eight break points in the fifth game, she grabbed the break lead to go up 5-2.
Marino fought back, saving a set point and breaking Gauff as the American served for the set. However, it did not last as Gauff struck once more, drawing an error to break for the opening set.
Now with a set in her pocket, Gauff put the pedal to the metal. The teen must have been hungry, as she only needed 25 minutes in the second set to break serve three times and grab the bagel.
This was only Marino’s second appearance in the main draw of Roland-Garros, having reached the third round in 2011.
Bianca Andreescu is the only Canadian in action on Monday in Paris. She will kick off the day against Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure at 11 am local, 5 am eastern time.