Rafael Nadal extends his arms out and lifts his face up with eyes closed and a smile

Photo : ATP Tour

All eyes have turned to the Internazionale BNL d’Italia in Rome last week, and now tennis enthusiasts watch closely as Roger Federer returns to action for the first time in months at his home tournament in Geneva. From Big 3 updates to Canadians in action, here’s the latest news across the professional circuits in this week’s Monday Digest.

Must watch this week

Federer and Shapovalov play Geneva, Auger-Aliassime in lyon

After good performances in Rome last week, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov added another tournament to their calendars in hopes of getting more clay-court match practice. Shapovalov is the No. 2-seeded player in Geneva, while Auger-Aliassime is the No. 7 seed in Lyon.

Shapovalov slides to hit a low backhand slice on a clay court
Photo : Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

On the top half of the Geneva draw, top-seed Roger Federer comes back again after a long-awaited return to the game. The Swiss Maestro played only two matches this season, still recovering from knee surgeries in 2020. Should Federer and Shapovalov meet in the final as projected by their rankings, it will be their second career meeting. Federer won their only encounter so far, claiming it in straight sets in the Miami 2019 semi-finals.

Fernandez’s winning start in belgrade

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Leylah Fernandez is back in the main draw of a WTA event since Charleston in April. At a career-high ranking of No. 69, Leylah would have had to play No. 1 seeded player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round, but the Russian recently withdrew from the tournament, choosing to take more time to rest ahead of the second major of the season at Roland Garros.

Fernandez’s chances are good to make it far into the tournament, after convingcingly winning her first round match against Polona Hercog 7-5, 6-1. The first seeded player the Montrealer could face is No. 6 seeded Kristina Mladenovic, current World No. 59, in the quarter-finals.

In case you missed it – Rome ATP/WTA 1000

Rome – Nadal and Djokovic resume rivalry

In the rivalry commonly called “Rafole” or “Djodal” by fans, their 57th encounter had much on the line for both players. In a high-quality match, fans finally got what they wanted, as the meeting was finished in three sets with richness of content for highlights and hot-shots reels.

With the 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory, Nadal is now only one win away from tying their head-to-head, which Djokovic leads, 29-28. The Rome title also ties the two giants’ ATP Masters 1000 record at 36 title a piece. Coincidentaly, the Serbian won his 36th title also in Rome, beating Diego Schwartzman in the 2020 final. Djokovic has also lost to Nadal in their past five meetings on clay, including three matches in Rome. The 18-time Grand Slam champion’s last win over the Spaniard was back in 2016, also in Rome.

Djokovic and Nadal stand side by side with the Runner-up and Champion trophies, respectively, in Rome
Photo : Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Fichman wins in doubles

In a surprise showing in Rome as alternates, Canadian Sharon Fichman partnered up with Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos to lift the WTA 1000 in doubles. The run was full of incredible comebacks, as the Canadian-Mexican duo showed great fight to overcome all sorts of challenges. They came back from a set down in every match except in the semi-finals, having lost two sets at 6-1, including against top-seeded team Hsieh-Mertens.

On finals Sunday, Fichman and Olmos were made to pull a double shift, with rain delays forcing all play to stop on Saturday. Right after their semi-final match, the underdogs had to come back on court against Mladenovic, the now WTA doubles World No. 1, and Vondrousova. After dropping the first set and saving match points in the second, Fichman and Olmos completed their last comeback of the week, takng the title with a 4-6, 7-5, 10-5 win.

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Une publication partagée par Sharon Fichman (@shazzzzy)

Swiatek dismantles Pliskova

19-year-old star Iga Swiatek has lived up to the pressure from winning Roland Garros in 2020, and was in complete control of the final against Karolina Pliskova on Sunday. After saving match points earlier in the tournament, Swiatek showed more of the the level that saw her win the French Open with the loss of just 28 games and not a single set.

In similar fashion to her French Open campaign, the Pole lost only three points on serve and 13 overall in a one-sided 6-0, 6-0 final. The win propelled Swiatek into the Top 10 for the first time, bringing her to a career-high of No. 9.

Iga Swiatek holds the Rome Trophy
Photo : Internazionali BNL d’Italia

Shapovalov defies Nadal

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov nearly surprised eventual Rome Champion Rafael Nadal in one of the matches of the tournament in the third round. The two left-handed players left it all out on the court as Shapovalov took the first set and had two match points in the third before Nadal ended the battle with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory. You can read more about this amazing match here.

Under the Radar

In the ITF tournaments, Canadians carry our flag as they fight in the smaller tournaments to rack up ranking points in order to enter the WTA and ATP tier events.

Katherine Sebov entered the W25 Pelham event in Alabama as the No. 5 seed and receives a bye in her first round. In the meantime, Taha Baadi and Sid Donarski play through the qualifying round in the M25 Penascola, Florida, for a place in the main draw.

Katherine Sebov of Canada focus on return serve
Photo : Jaime Lopez/JAM MEDIA/Tennis Canada

Follow all Canadians in action this week here.