Rebecca Marino pumps her fist during an Australian Open qualifying match.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

There will be five Canadians competing in the singles draw of the Australian Open when the season’s first major kicks off this weekend after Rebecca Marino booked her spot on Friday in Melbourne. 

Marino is the only Canadian to get through qualifying and joins Leylah Annie Fernandez in the women’s singles draw. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, and Milos Raonic are competing in the men’s singles. 

Five Canadians competed in qualifying at the Australian Open, but only Marino was able to win all three of her matches and get into the main draw. Her final victory came at the expense of countrywoman Katherine Sebov, who retired down 2-0 in their third-round all-Canadian qualifying clash.  

In the first two rounds, Marino dispatched Ya Yi Yang in straight sets before coming back from a set down to defeat 23rd seed Jessika Ponchet to set the clash with Sebov. The Vancouverite will be making her fourth consecutive appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open. In three of those four years, she reached the main draw via qualifying. 

Sebov was looking to qualify for the Australian Open for the second consecutive year. In 2023, she qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw in Melbourne. But after wins over ninth seed Emiliana Arango and Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure, the Canadian had to retire early against Marino with a wrist injury. 

Two other Canadian women were competing in qualifying.  

Carol Zhao won her opener against Valeria Savinykh but was beaten in round two by second seed Katie Volynets. Stacey Fung lost in the first round to Julia Riera. Zhao and Fung were in the same section and, like Marino and Sebov, would have met in the final round of qualifying. 

Gabriel Diallo was the lone Canadian man competing in qualifying and came agonizingly close to entering his first Grand Slam main draw, but ultimately lost his final match from a set up to former world No. 7 David Goffin.  

It was Diallo’s first time in the final round of qualifying at a major. His best previous result was the second round at Wimbledon last year. He beat Pablo Llamas Ruiz in the first round in Melbourne and narrowly edged Pierre-Hugues Herbert 10-8 in the third set tiebreak of their second-round clash, but came up short against Goffin in the final round 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

Australian Open Draw Unkind to Canadians 

The draw gods did not shine on the five Canadians in the main draw, with two of them having to face Top 10 opponents in the opening round. 

Rebecca Marino’s reward for coming through qualifying is a date with No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula. It will be a first meeting between the two.  

Read also: Australian Open Women’s Power Rankings

If Marino were to pull the massive upset, her next seeded opponent could be No. 29 Lin Zhu in round three. The pair faced four times in 2023 with Lin winning three. The in-form Qinwen Zheng looms in the fourth round followed by No. 3 seed Elena Rybakina in the quarter-finals. However, Marino has never made it past the second round of the Australian Open. 

On the men’s side, Milos Raonic will face a Top 10 opponent in the first round for the second major in a row as he takes on the in-form local favourite Alex de Minaur in his opening match. Raonic had to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of the US Open last summer. 

It has been over six years since Raonic and de Minaur met on tour when the speedy Aussie beat the powerful Canadian in straight sets in Brisbane. The matchup is a dramatic contrast of styles pitting Raonic’s huge serve and mighty groundstrokes against the speedy court coverage and excellent defence of the Demon, who will be making his Top 10 debut at his home Slam after a run at the United Cup where he scored three Top 10 wins, including one over No. 1 Novak Djokovic. 

Read also: Australian Open Men’s Power Rankings

Also in that section of the draw are No. 18 seed Nicolas Jarry, a potential third-round opponent for Raonic, and No. 5 Andrey Rublev, who would be his fourth-round opponent. No. 4 seed Jannik Sinner is the highest seed in that quarter. Historically the Australian Open has been Raonic’s most consistent major, having reached the quarter-finals five times and the semifinals once in 2016.  

Felix Auger-Aliassime has a tough first-round match against 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem. The former world No. 3 defeated the Canadian in the fourth round during that title run in New York in straight sets, their lone previous meeting. 

Both players are far from their peak, as Thiem has struggled to refind his form after a wrist injury derailed him in 2021, while Auger-Aliassime had a down year in 2023 and suffered a knee injury late in the season. The Canadian has played just two matches in the last three months: a mixed doubles match at the United Cup and his first singles match of the year this week in Auckland. Both were losses. 

If Auger-Aliassime comes through, his nemesis Daniil Medvedev is his likely third-round opponent. The Canadian has never beaten the former world No. 1 in six attempts, although their closest encounter came in Melbourne in the 2022 quarter-finals when Auger-Aliassime led by two sets to love and held match point. 

Grigor Dimitrov is the projected fourth-round opponent for Auger-Aliassime. Holger Rune is also in that quarter. 

Denis Shapovalov has the least intimidating first-round match out of the Canadian men, qualifier Jakub Mensik, but his second-round opponent is likely to be No. 9 seed Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated Shapovalov in five sets last year in the third round.  

Last week, Shapovalov played his first tour event since being injured in the fourth round of Wimbledon last summer. He lost in the first round of Auckland to Sebastian Ofner.  

No. 21 seed Ugo Humbert is Shapovalov’s projected third-round opponent, with No. 8 Holger Rune or his Wimbledon conqueror Roman Safiulin likely waiting in the fourth round.  

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov are in the same quarter in the bottom half of the draw with Carlos Alcaraz. Raonic is in the top half with Novak Djokovic. None of the Canadian men could face one of the top two seeds until the semifinals. 

Leylah Annie Fernandez, who snuck in as the 32nd and final seed, got the least brutal draw of the five Canadians. She will start against 17-year-old qualifier Sara Bejlek. However, the difficulty increases exponentially quite quickly. 

The first major threat on paper for Fernandez looms in the form of fourth seed and reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff in the third round. The two youngsters have never met on tour. Gauff is the most-recent hard-court Grand Slam champion and already has a title under her belt in 2024, although Fernandez is coming in with momentum after a strong finish to 2023 and looked sharp at the United Cup to start the season. 

A win could set up a rematch with Caroline Garcia, who beat Fernandez in both Melbourne and at Wimbledon in epics last year. Noami Osaka, who recently made her return to the tour after maternity leave and who Fernandez defeated during her run to the 2021 US Open final, is also in that section of the draw as a potential fourth-round opponent. 

Fernandez has a 1-4 record at the Australian Open, with her best result being the second round in 2023. She is in the bottom half of the draw with defending champion and No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, but they cannot meet until the semifinals. 

For the first time, the Australian Open is beginning on a Sunday. Fernandez is the lone Canadian playing on day one and will kick off the action on John Cain Arena at 11 am local time, 7 pm EST on Saturday night in Canada. The match will be broadcast in Canada on TSN and RDS.