Rebecca Marino tosses a ball up to serve.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

If Thursday’s second-round match at the Madrid Open was any indication, Team Canada presented by Sobeys may have caught a break earlier in April when Elise Mertens passed on the Billie Jean King Cup tie between Belgium and Canada.

The Belgian No. 1 defeated Canada’s Rebecca Marino in straight sets on Thursday in Madrid, breaking the Canadian’s mighty serve six times in the 6-3, 6-1 win. This was Marino’s first-ever appearance at a WTA 1000 event on clay, let alone the second round.

Clay is a surface that generally favours returners and Mertens, the 24th seed in Madrid, took full advantage against the big-serving Marino, converting six of her eleven break points and winning 53 per cent of the Canadian’s second serve points. Marino did herself few favours by putting just 47 per cent of her first serves in play and won just 52 per cent of those points.

Mertens was reading Marino’s serve right from the start, breaking the Canadian in the opening game and adding a break to love a few games later to claim a quick 4-1 lead.

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However, Marino quickly turned the tables. She broke back immediately and was a point away from levelling the set at 4-all when she had a double break point on the Belgian’s serve in the eighth game but could not convert.

The second serve was a huge problem for the Canadian in the opening set as she won just 26 per cent of points when missing her first delivery, which allowed Mertens to cause problems nearly every time Marino served. As she tried to stay in the set at 3-5, the Canadian found herself under pressure again and was broken on the fourth break point of the game to surrender the opening set.

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An exchange of breaks opened the second set before Mertens held to love. The Belgian seemed to have solved Marino’s serve and was able to break every time the Canadian stepped up to the line. Marino only had one break point to stay on pace and could not convert it as her tournament came to an end after 76 minutes.

Two Canadian women remain in the singles draw: Bianca Andreescu and Eugenie Bouchard.