Photo: Martin Sidorjak
While most of the tennis world was obsessing over the ATP’s new superstar, the Canadians had a strong week at the Madrid Open, including one veteran getting her hands on a trophy.
If what the Canadians accomplished flew a little under the radar in Madrid, that likely won’t be the case in Rome, where a series of blockbusters are on the horizon early in the draw.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Dabrowski victorious in Madrid
After losing back-to-back finals in the Spanish capital, Gabriela Dabrowski was due for a victory.
At the third time of asking, she got it as the Canadian doubles star and partner Giuliana Olmos, claimed their first WTA 1000 title as a pair with a thrilling victory in the Madrid Open final.
Dabrowski and Olmos were the definition of clutch in the Spanish capital, winning match tiebreaks in three of their four matches, including in the final against third seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs, who they edged 7-6, 5-7, 10-7 to win the title.
It is the fourth WTA 1000 title of Dabrowski’s career, but the first on clay.
In singles, it was probably already official, but now there is no denying that Carlos Alcaraz has arrived.
The 19-year-old Spaniard won his second Masters 1000 event of 2022, doing so the hard way by beating three Top 5 opponents in a row to claim the title. In the process, he became the first player ever to defeat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic back-to-back on clay, edging them in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, both in three sets.
In the final, he blew out Alexander Zverev with the loss of just four games. With the win, he is now up to No. 6 in the world.
On the women’s side, it was finally Ons Jabeur’s time as the veteran Tunisian broke through for the biggest title of her career, just her second ever and first above the 250-level.
It was hardly smooth sailing for Jabeur, who needed a few three-setters to get her hands on the trophy, including in the final against Jessica Pegula, but she was able to take full advantage of a drew that collapse around her (at No. 8, the was the highest seed and one of only two to reach the quarter-finals) and claim the title.
Félix Auger-Aliassime finally managed to find some form last week in Madrid, not just claiming his first match win at the Masters 1000 level in 2022, but cruising into the quarter-finals, losing just six games in his first two matches, including a blowout of Jannik Sinner in the third round, on his way to the last eight, where he lost in two tight sets to the eventual runner-up Zverev.
Bianca Andreescu’s comeback took a big leap forward, as she advanced to the last sixteen with a couple of impressive wins, most notably her second round upset of Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins. The Canadian blew out the sixth seed 6-1, 6-1 for her first Top 10 win since the 2019 US Open final.
Her run ended in the third round when she was beaten by the eventual runner-up Pegula.
Denis Shapovalov and Leylah Annie Fernandez both lost their second-round matches in Madrid to Andy Murray and Jil Teichmann respectively.
What to Watch: Blockbusters for the Canadians in Rome
It’s a quick turn-around this week as the final 1000-level event of the clay swing, and the last big bit of preparation for Roland Garros, takes place this week in Rome.
There will be a full contingent of Canadians at the Italian Open, with Auger-Aliassime, Andreescu, Shapovalov and Fernandez all competing. However, the draw was not kind to the Canadians, particularly to the Canadian women.
Andreescu will be in the spotlight in round one as she features in the biggest blockbuster of the opening round, taking on fellow US Open champion Emma Raducanu. If she upsets the 10th seed, Andreescu will meet a Spaniard, either Sara Sorribes Tormo or Nuria Parrizas Diaz, in round two. Fifth seed Anett Kontaveit could loom in round three before world No. 1 Iga Świątek in the quarter-finals.
The draw was particularly cruel to Fernandez, who was drawn against last year’s Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round. However, Fernandez was able to battle back from a set down to beat the 14th seed and advance earlier on Monday.
It won’t get much easier for the young Canadian as she will now meet Daria Kasatkina in the second round and could get world No. 2 Paula Badosa in round three.
Shapovalov was the first Canadian off and running in Rome, winning his opening round match over Lorenzo Sonego in three sets on Monday morning. He will meet Nikoloz Basilashvili in the second round.
A potential rematch with Rafael Nadal looms in the third round. Last year in Rome, Shapovalov and Nadal played one of the best matches of the year at the Italian Open, with the Canadian holding match points before eventually falling to the King of Clay.
Auger-Aliassime will look to use his strong performance in Madrid as a springboard to bigger and better things late in the clay season. He’s going to need to carry that good form to Rome as he will have a difficult opening match again Monte Carlo runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
He then could have a chance at revenge in round three against either Diego Schwartzman or Miomir Kecmanovic, both of whom handed the Canadian losses during his March-April skid. Auger-Aliassime is in the same quarter as Djokovic and same half as Nadal.
The King of Clay and the women’s No. 1 are the defending champions. Nadal and Djokovic, who met in the 2021 final, are in the same half and could meet in the semi-finals.
Seven of the men’s Top 10 are competing in Rome. The biggest absence is the world-beater Alcaraz, who withdrew at the last minute to rest after his victory in Madrid. Nine of the women’s Top 10 are competing.
In doubles, Dabrowski will look to sweep the women’s clay WTA 1000 titles as she and Giuliana Olmos look to run it back in Rome. Olmos is the defending champion, having won it last year with another Canadian, Sharon Fichman.
The pair are seeded second and, after a bye, will open against Ekaterina Alexandrova and Anna Danilina.
Under the Radar:
The theme of Canadians losing to the eventual runners-up stretched all the way down the circuits last week, as Rebecca Marino suffered the same fate at the WTA 125 event in Saint-Malo.
Marino upset the sixth seed Anna Kalinskaya in three sets in the opening round before falling to a different Anna, Anna Blinkova, in the second round. Blinkova went on to reach the final, where she lost to Beatriz Haddad Maia.
At the ITF W25 event in Daytona Beach, Francoise Abanda suffered a similar fate, only her conqueror went on to win the title. Abanda reached the semis before losing to the eventual champion Katerina Scott.
The same thing happened to 17-year-old Canadian Kayla Cross as she reached the quarter-finals of an ITF event in Antalya, Turkey, upsetting the second seed in the process, before losing to the eventual champion.
Marino will be back at it this week in another WTA 125 event in Karlsruhe, Germany. There is also an ITF100 event in La Bisbal d’Emporda, Spain, feature Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team member Carol Zhao.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.