Photo : Julian Finney/
On a day where all the Canadians remaining in the singles draws in Indian Wells are in action, the Canadian contingent has already shrunk with Félix Auger-Aliassime advancing to the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open, but Leylah Annie Fernandez being eliminated.
Both Canadians had rematches from the Australian Open and both saw similar results, with Auger-Aliassime grinding past Francisco Cerundolo while Fernandez lost a tight battle to No. 5 seed Caroline Garcia.
There were shaky moments for Auger-Aliassime as he faced fierce resistance from Cerundolo, particularly at the beginning and end of the match. But in the end the Canadian managed to keep the pressure high enough to hang on for a 7-5, 6-4 win.
It was hardly a clean performance from Auger-Aliassime, who had eight double faults and 28 unforced errors to counter his six aces and 20 winners. He also put just 49 per cent of his first serves in play, although he won 76 per cent of those points.
Critically, he converted four of his eight break point chances while saving five of the seven he faced.
Auger-Aliassime was sharper at the start of the match and was able to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead, being gifted a break by a Cerundolo double fault. However, a strange moment stunted his momentum when the Canadian hit himself in the chin with his own racket, which required a medical timeout.
When play resumed, a patched-up Auger-Aliassime took some time to get his groove back while the break allowed the Argentine to settle down. Some incredible defence from Cerundolo saw him break back and quickly level the set at 2-2.
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It took some time, but Auger-Aliassime was eventually able to reassert his control of the match. After failing to convert a pair of break points in the seventh game, the Canadian finally managed to punch a hole in Cerundolo’s defence at 5-5, drawing back-to-back errors to get the break. He promptly served out the set, closing it with an ace.
In the first set, Auger-Aliassime had lost just two points on his first serve but had put just 37 per cent of them in play. He picked up that level in the second set, allowing himself to focus his energies on breaking serve.
Despite his brilliant court coverage and retrieval skills, Cerundolo struggled to keep up as the Canadian ruled the rallies. Auger-Aliassime took his chances on his opponent’s serve and big returns on break points rewarded him twice as he raced out to a 5-2 lead.
Closing out the match proved to be a challenge for the Canadian, who double-faulted down break point to surrender his first break after missing two match points. He then saved two break points, one with a big serve and another with some great play at the net, the second time he tried to serve it out before converting his fourth match point of the game, and sixth overall, to book his place in the last 16.
Auger-Aliassime will meet home favourite Tommy Paul for a spot in the quarter-finals. It will be a first meeting between the pair.
Progress but a similar result for Fernandez vs. Garcia
For the second time in 2022, Leylah Annie Fernandez was on the losing end of a tight battle with Caroline Garcia. The Canadian fell to the No. 5-ranked Frenchwoman, this time in three sets, on Monday in the third round of Indian Wells.
As was the case when these two met at the Australian Open, won by Garcia in straight sets, the match came down to who won the big points. While Fernandez did a better job of finding her best tennis in the key moments, surviving a tense tiebreak to extend the match, the Frenchwoman came up clutch in the decider to claim a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 win.
Garcia’s dominant serving was the difference in the match, as she won 86 per cent of her first serve points, 73 per cent of her service points overall, and saved the only two break points she faced while converting three of her four opportunities. The Frenchwoman also had 35 winners to Fernandez’s 22.
Much like their second-round encounter in Melbourne in January, the margins were razor thin in the opening set with some clutch play from Garcia making the difference.
A bit of bad luck for Fernandez cost her early as a forehand off the net cord died on her own side to put the Canadian down love-40. Garcia converted what proved to be the only break point for either player in the opening set. The Frenchwoman lost just three points on serve as she took it 6-4.
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The luck evened out in the second set as the match devolved into a slugfest, with neither woman giving an inch on the baseline. Garcia once again had the only opportunity to break, but this time Fernandez was up to the task, saving the only break point of the set at 4-4.
Both women were hyper aggressive on their returns in the tiebreak which resulted in a couple exchanges of minibreaks early on. But it was brilliant defence from Fernandez that ruled the day. First, a defensive forehand down the line drew an error to put the Canadian up 6-4 and then on the second set point, she ran down a Garcia volley and spun a forehand passing shot past the Frenchwoman to send the match to a decider.
Fernandez had a chance to carry her momentum into the third set when she held her first two break points of the match in the opening game, but Garcia saved both with smashes.
A huge return set up the break for the Frenchwomen in the fourth game and that kicked off a race to the finish line for the world No. 5. Now in full stride, Garcia won the last five games in a row to eliminate the Canadian No. 2.
Fernandez is still alive in doubles with Taylor Townsend, but faces another tough test in the form of top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.
Bianca Andreescu will meet world No. 1 Iga Swiatek later on Monday.