Denis Shapovalov (left) and Felix Auger-Aliassime smile.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

For those Canadians looking to get their clay-court seasons off on the right foot at the Madrid Open this week, the first combined 1000 event on the dirt may not have been what they were looking for.

Madrid has always had some of the trickier conditions during the clay swing and it caused problems for the Canadians last week. Or at least it caused a lot of problems in singles.

Here’s what you need to know:

In Case You Missed It: Week One Wash

The 2023 Madrid Open is one to forget when it comes to Canadians and singles as the six Canadians went a combined 2-6 in main draw play, with four losing their opening matches.

Rebecca Marino and Eugenie Bouchard both managed to win their first-round matches before bowing out in round two. Bouchard had come through qualifying to enter her first WTA 1000 main draw on clay since 2017.

Leylah Annie Fernandez was stunned in round one by a 15-year-old, although that defeat has since been redeemed since her conqueror, Mirra Andreeva, went on to reach the fourth round.

Read also: Bouchard makes winning return on clay

Bianca Andreescu made her return to the tour but ran out of gas in her opening match. She, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov all had first-round byes but lost three-setters in round two.

Despite all the singles disappointments, the doubles was far more forgiving as all four Canadians competing reached the quarter-finals.

Team Shauger, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, reunited and reached their second Masters 1000 quarter-final of 2023 with a pair of straight-set wins, including a round-two upset of sixth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara.

While the men are playing together, the Canadian women give the country two separate shots at the title.

Gabriela Dabrowski and her Brazilian partner Luisa Stefani, seeded seventh in Madrid, are through to the last eight after surviving a first-round scare before beating the Andreeva sisters in round two.

Fernandez’s strong run of doubles form with Taylor Townsend carried across the pond as the Miami runners-up also find themselves in the last eight after upsetting the second seeds Jelena Ostapenko and Lyudmyla Kichenok in the first round.

For the second year in a row, a player from an Arab country is making a run in Madrid on the women’s side as Mayar Sherif, who had only ever advanced past the first round of a WTA 1000 event once in eight previous appearances including seven consecutive first-round losses, reached her first quarter-final having beaten world No. 5 Caroline Garcia in round three and 24th seed Elise Mertens in the last sixteen.

Read also: Nadal, Djokovic battling to compete at Roland-Garros

Casper Ruud’s nightmare of a season continued with an opening-match loss to 105th-ranked qualifier Matteo Arnaldi. One of Borna Coric, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Jaume Munar or Daniel Altmaier will make the semifinals out of that quarter after Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz were also upset.

What to Watch: Spotlight on Doubles

Madrid action continues this week and for the Canadians, it’s all about the doubles with three pairs in the quarter-finals.

Gabriela Dabrowski has the toughest draw as she and Luisa Stefani will face top seeds Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff for a spot in the semifinals.

Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov do not have it much easier as they face fourth-seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer, although should they pull the upset they would face an unseeded pair in the semifinals.

Leylah Annie Fernandez is the lone Canadian without a seeded opponent in the quarter-finals. She and Taylor Townsend will face Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova in the last eight and, like Team Shauger, are guaranteed a non-seeded opponent should they reach the final four.

Read also: Felix keeps it classy

Dabrowski and Fernandez are on opposite halves of the draw, so an all-Canadian final is a possibility.

In singles, most of the favourites are still alive including top seeds Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek. Alcaraz has a rematch of the 2022 final with Alexander Zverev in the quarters.

Four of the top five seeds are still in on the men’s side: Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev. Only three of the top five are still alive on the women’s side, although seven of the eight quarter-final spots belong to seeds.

Under the Radar: Martin Saves the Day

It was not all doom and gloom for Canadian singles players across the tennis world last week as Dan Martin picked up an ITF M15 title in Vero Beach, Florida last week, the first of his career on the ITF circuit.

Martin did not drop a set on his way to the final, including an upset of second seed Andres Andrade in the quarter-finals, before edging American Jaycer Lyeons in a tight three-setter to claim the title.

This week, Gabriel Diallo makes a trip to the far east on the ATP Challenger Tour.

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.