Photo : Mauricio Paiz/Tennis Canada
by Pete Borkowski
The lesson learned early on Friday at the Miami Open is that Canadians are good at winning three-set matches.
Both Denis Shapovalov and Bianca Andreescu went the distance in their respective second-round matches and both managed to pull out the wins, with Andreescu upsetting No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari while Shapovalov put away Guido Pella.
Each of the previous two meetings between Andreescu and Sakkari had gone this distance and the second-round clash was no different, with the Canadian’s craftiness proving more effective than the Greek’s gritty power in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win for the Canadian.
Consistency was the key as Andreescu took advantage of her opponent’s second serve, winning 58 per cent of points when the Greek missed her first serve. Sakkari only put 58 per cent of first serves in play. The Canadian was also the more consistent in the rallies as Sakkari committed 54 unforced errors while Andreescu had just 31.
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Meeting for the first time since 2021, when they played a pair of three-set epics including one in Miami, Andreescu and Sakkari picked up where they left off with the pair exchanging body blows right from the start.
Sakkari landed the first significant blow, ripping a forehand passing shot to secure a break in the seventh game and then went up 40-love when trying to consolidate. However, the game slipped away from the Greek as she missed six game points and Andreescu was able to break back.
But Sakkari’s tenaciousness paid off as, after missing a pair of break points in the ninth game, she managed to draw an error off the Canadian’s racket to break again for a 6-5 lead. She had to save a break point as she served for the set but the Greek closed it out with a forehand winner.
The serve vanished for Sakkari at the start of the second set and Andreescu was happy to take advantage, pounding the Greek’s second serve as she broke to take a 3-1 lead.
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Despite failing to convert a chance for a double break point and staring down an 18-point game on her own serve at 4-2, Andreescu held her nerve to send the match to a decider.
Attacking the serve proved to be a winning strategy for Andreescu, who ripped a return winner to set up double break point in the opening game. Sakkari fired a backhand into the net to fall behind the immediate break.
More and more as the match went along, the Greek began to struggle with the variety thrown at her by Andreescu and the Canadian managed to stretch the lead to a double-break at 4-1.
Sakkari did go down swinging, reclaiming one of the breaks, saving two match points with some raw power when Andreescu served for the match at 5-4 and then had one point to break back, but the errors that plagued her throughout the day proved costly as she fired a shot long and two points later committed another error to send the Canadian into the third round.
Leylah Annie Fernandez will look to follow suit and cause a Top 10 upset later on Friday when she takes on Belinda Bencic. Both Rebecca Marino and Katherine Sebov were beaten by Top 10 opponents in the second round on Thursday.
Shapovalov battles past Pella
by Mel Boyd
Denis Shapovalov looked more like himself on Friday at the Miami Open as he earned himself a much-needed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Guido Pella of Argentina to advance to the third round of the ATP Masters 1000 event.
Seeded no. 24 in the tournament, Shapovalov, who is trying to work through an early season funk, benefitted from an opening round bye. In Pella, he was facing a player who is known as more of a clay court specialist and who is trying to work his way back to his career-high ranking of no. 20 after being forced to miss the entire 2022 season with the exception of one match at the Challenger level.
The 23-year-old jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the opening set and managed to maintain his advantage throughout. He hit his forehand well and Pella wasn’t doing much damage off the ground which meant he could dictate the majority of the points. Despite hitting four double faults, his serve got him out of a few tough spots, including at 5-3 while he was serving for the set. He saved the lone break point he faced in the opening frame and came through with a few big deliveries to get himself out of trouble while also securing a one-set lead.
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Pella turned the tables in the second set thanks to two breaks of serve and better, steadier groundstrokes. Meanwhile, Shapovalov was more erratic and grew increasingly frustrated with his level of play as the set wore on.
In the end, Shapovalov’s firepower in every facet of his game was too much for Pella as the Canadian successfully righted the ship in the final frame. The set remained on serve until the Argentine played a poor eighth game to hand the decisive break to Shapovalov which he ran with by impressively serving out the match at love.
The victory is only Shapovalov’s second triumph in his last seven matches. In the third round on Sunday, he’ll face the winner of the all-American matchup between ninth-seeded Taylor Fritz and wildcard Emilio Nava who knocked out John Isner in the first round.
Félix Auger-Aliassime will open his title bid on Saturday when he goes up against Thiago Monteiro of Brazil. Watch all the action on TSN, RDS, and TVA Sports.
Fernandez falls to Bencic
by Kylie Walker
Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez has been eliminated from the Miami Open following a 1-6,1-6defeat to ninth-seeded Swiss star Belinda Bencic. The 20-year-old Montreal native has yet to make it past the second round of this tournament.
The young Canadian failed to keep her momentum going following her first-round win against Lesia Tsurenko on Wednesday, losing 48 per cent of her first serve points and 70 per cent of her second. She had no opportunities to break her opponent, who broke Fernandez five out of six times.
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Bencic, a semifinalist in last year’s Miami Open, benefited from a bye in the opening round. Looking fresh and determined in her first outing of the tournament, Bencic needed just 27 minutes to take the first set, only dropping two points on serve and breaking Fernandez three times.
Fernandez got off to a slow start, suffering an early double break in the first set to fall behind 0-3. She continued to struggle to find her rhythm in the second set as Bencic remained more calm, collected, and consistent.
Friday’s highly-anticipated match-up was the fifth duel between the Canadian and the Swiss. Fernandez has now suffered three successive defeats at the hands of Bencic. The pair last battled head-to-head in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup finals, where Canada was ousted from the tournament in the group stage after Bencic won in straight sets.
Meanwhile, Fernandez will look to build some momentum at the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers on April 14-15. Led by captain Heidi El Tabakh, Fernandez and fellow Canadians Andreescu, Gabriela Dabrowski, and Rebecca Marino look to defeat Belgium at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, B.C.