Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
With the French Open fast approaching, a couple of Canadian stars suffered mixed fates in the early rounds of their warmup events this week.
Félix Auger-Aliassime’s preparation was cut short at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon by a fellow young gun, while Leylah Fernandez overcame some early service struggles to reach the second round of the singles in Belgrade.
Missed Opportunities Cost Auger-Aliassime
Auger-Aliassime will head into Roland Garros with a 4-5 record on clay this spring after his first-round loss at the hands of Italian Lorenzo Musetti in a tight three-setter.
The Montreal native reached the final in Lyon two years ago, but could not get off the ground in his opener this year, struggling to find consistency against his 19-year-old opponent, who ultimately came up big on the key points to steal a 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-5 victory.
Both men had chances to break serve in their opening return games, but it was not until game four when Auger-Aliassime, the seventh seed, missed a pair of forehands from 30-all to give Musetti the early lead.
The Canadian managed to fight his way back, grabbing a break of his own to level the set at 4-all.
The first set ultimately proved to be one of missed opportunities for Auger-Aliassime. He had chances to take his first lead of the match with break points at 4-all but failed to convert.
Then in the tiebreak, he grabbed a minibreak on the first point and went up 2-0, only to lose seven of the next eight points to drop the opening set.
Auger-Aliassime let an early lead slip away again in the second set, surrendering a break immediately after going ahead 2-0. However, the Canadian broke again to take a 4-2 lead and this time hung on to send the match to a deciding set.
In the final set, Auger-Aliassime had chances to break in each of Musetti’s first two service games but could not convert. He then paid for it when the Italian won his first break point of the set to take a 4-2 lead.
Musetti served for the match at 5-3, but Auger-Aliassime made once last charge, finally breaking and fighting back to level at 5-all.
However, the seventh seed could not turn the comeback into a victory, as he was broken for the fourth time as he served to stay in the match at 5-6, ending his campaign in the first round with a double fault.
In the end, the match came down to just a few key exchanges as both men won 104 total points in the match. Auger-Aliassime’s struggles on break points proved costly, as he was broken four time on seven break points, while only converting four of his 12 opportunities on his opponent’s serve.
Mixed Results for Fernandez
Over in Belgrade, Fernandez was looking to pull double-duty, but will only be moving forward in the singles after split results over the first two days in the Serbian capital.
On Monday, the Canadian teen battled past veteran Polona Hercog to reach the second round, breaking serve seven times in a 7-5, 6-1 win.
The first set was back-and-forth and featured a run of five straight breaks of serve from 1-all, sandwiching a rain delay.
Fernandez had a chance to serve out the set at 5-4, only to be broken for a third time in the set. However, the 18-year-old responded perfectly by immediately breaking back and served out the opening set at the second time of asking.
The Canadian settled in for the second set and was far more solid on serve, only allowing Hercog one break points, which was saved.
On return, Fernandez heaped on the pressure and had chances to break in all of her opponent’s service games. She was successful three times, including breaking to take the match.
In the second set, the Canadian won 16 of 26 return points, including every single one of of Hercog’s second serve points.
Fernandez returned to the court on Tuesday alongside countrywoman Gabriela Dabrowski in the doubles.
Despite taking the opening set and leading by a double break at 3-0 in the second set, the Canadian pair ultimately lost in a third-set super tiebreak 10-8 to Yifan Xu and Shuai Zhang.
Fernandez will meet Viktoriya Tomova in the second round of the singles draw.
Denis Shapovalov is also in action this week in Geneva and has a first-round bye.