Felix Auger-Aliassime hits a backhand. Canada lost at the United Cup to Greece on Wednesday.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Canada’s first appearance at the United Cup came to an early end on Wednesday in Sydney after a sweep at the hands of Greece. With the loss, Canada will finish last in Sydney Group B and will not advance to the knockout stage.

Greece was one of the strongest teams in the competition, one of only three to boast both Top 10 players in both the ATP and WTA rankings, and they were too much for the Canadians to handle in the final tie of the group stage, winning all three matches in straight sets.

Once again, Leylah Annie Fernandez and Steven Diez were the singles representatives for Canada as they had been in the nation’s 2-1 win over Chile in the opening match of the Group Stage. Fernandez had been victorious in the Chile tie but had beaten an opponent outside the Top 600. She was up against world No. 9 Maria Sakkari for Greece and despite pushing the 2023 Guadalajara champion, the Canadian could not find a way to score a win, falling in straight sets 7-6(2), 6-3.

Fernandez had her chances in the opening set, breaking for a 2-0 lead and then holding four set points on Sakkari’s serve in the 10th game, but the Greek refused to let her pull away. Sakkari ultimately took the set in a tiebreak. The Canadian again broke early in the second set and led 3-1, but the Greek won the last five games in a row to land the first blow for her country.

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Diez suffered a similar fate as he did against Chile, losing again in straight sets to another Top 20 opponent, this time against world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-3.

The match was similar to Diez’s clash with Nicolas Jarry, as the Canadian hung with a player ranked significantly above him but failed to cause much discomfort. Unlike the Jarry match, Diez did manage to create a break point chance in the first set, but it came when he was already down a break and he failed to convert.

In the second set, a single double fault cost the Canadian as he sent his second serve long on what proved to be the only break point for either man in the set.

Welcome Back Felix

If there was a silver lining for the Canadians, it was the 2024 debut of Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had not played a competitive match in over two months due to a knee injury, in the mixed doubles match.

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However, by the time Auger-Aliassime and Stacey Fung took to the court for the mixed doubles, Canada had already been eliminated as they were guaranteed to finish last in the group. They were defeated by Stefanos’ brother Petros Tsitsipas and Despina Papamichail in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.

Like Fernandez had, the Canadians scored an early break to start the match and went up 3-0, but every time they built some momentum, the Greeks were able to reel the Canadian pair back in. They leveled at 4-4 before breaking in the 11th game.

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In set two, it was the Canadians’ turn to battle back, twice responding immediately after being broken. But after breaking right back in the eighth game of the second set, they were broken again right away before Tsitsipas served out the match.

Despite the defeat, it was a positive performance for Auger-Aliassime who looked strong, ripping a few huge returns, using his loopy ground strokes effectively, and showing off some beautiful touch at the net. It bodes well for the Canadian heading into the Australian Open.