US Open 2022 Entrance

There were four Canadians in action on Monday’s opening day of the 2022 US Open and all four advanced to the second round with impressive victories.

Bianca Andreescu was the first on court after a slight delay pre-match – more about that later. She overcame a poor patch early in the second set to go on and win convincingly 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 over Harmony Tan.

Andreescu hits forehand
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The first set was a 25-minute combination of Andreescu brilliance and the 24-year-old Frenchwoman’s bumbling. At one stage, the No. 112-ranked Tan lost 14 points on the trot and ended up winning just five points overall in the set.

When asked if she subscribed to the theory that it isn’t always the best thing to win a set 6-0, Andreescu replied, “I was thinking after that (first) set because it just flew by. I’m like, ‘oh, my gosh, what happens now?’ Like I’ve never…I don’t think I’ve ever played a first set like that. So it was obviously new for me, and I tried to keep my cool and just play my game.”

She didn’t quite play her game early in the second set as Tan re-grouped, stepped up and quickly took a 4-0 lead until Andreescu got herself back into gear in the set before finally losing it 6-3.

The third set was basically back to the beginning of the match. Andreescu broke serve early to take a 2-0 lead helped by two Tan double faults in the second game. From there the 2019 US Open champion’s tennis began to hum and she closed out the match with a polished performance to seal a one-hour and 39-minute victory.

Andreescu chooses balls
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

“It’s the first round, so I think it’s good that it happened now because I can learn from it,” Andreescu summed up about an at times uneven display when she had 21 winners to 13 for Tan and just 17 unforced errors to 28 for the 24-year-old Frenchwoman.

The win sets up an appetizing second round against red-hot No. 15 seed, and recent runner up at the National Bank Open in Toronto, Beatrix Haddad Maia. On Monday, the 26-year-old Brazilian recorded a rare double-bagel (6-0, 6-0) win over No. 117-ranked Ana Konjuh of Croatia.

In their only previous meeting, at an ITF event in Waco, Texas, in 2016, Haddad Maia won 3-6, 7-6(1), 4-0 ret.

“I watched her play the final at the Rogers Cup (National Bank Open),” Andreescu said about Haddad Maia. “She’s playing really, really well. I know I played her but it was back in 2016, I think it was. It wasn’t an easy match, and I’m sure Wednesday definitely won’t be an easy match, as well. She’s playing really well. But I’m also playing really well, so I think it’s going to be a great matchup.”

And regarding that delay after the warm-up when she had a discussion with the umpire and then left the court to change her dress, Andreescu explained, “it was just bothering me on some forehands. I just felt like it was kind of coming up a bit. Obviously the wind didn’t help.”

Post match she insisted on apologizing for a somewhat heated exchange she had with the umpire about whether her exit from the court would count as one of her two allotted bathroom breaks. It was all eventually resolved, and harmony (no pun intended) restored.

Fernandez slides to backhand
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Leylah Fernandez was back at the scene of her greatest success – a runner-finish at the 2021 US Open – and mostly played like it was deja-vu all over again in a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 99 Océane Dodin.

The 24-year-old Frenchwoman put up a better challenge in the second set but Fernandez, disappointed with not converting chances for a double-break lead, reset at 3-2 down and played her unique brand of dynamic tennis to close out the second set and the match to move into the second round for the third year in a row.

Showcased on Louis Armstrong Stadium were Fernandez’s aggressive serve returning, vicious hard-hitting angles and the relentless competitive spirit that spurred her to wins over top players such as Naomi Osaka, Aryna Sabalenka, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina one year ago.

Fernandez waves to crowd
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Summing up her feelings in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday, Fernandez said, “I had goose bumps stepping back into this court. I felt the love here tonight. I was a bit tired waiting all day long, but the crowd’s cheers pushed me to the end. They (fans) also helped me calm my nerves and emotions.”

As aggressive as Fernandez can play, she does it with a control that sets her apart from many of her peers on the WTA tour. An example was Monday night’s match when she hit 26 winners to 25 for Dodin, but she combined that with a mere nine unforced errors to 24 for the hard-hitting 25-year-old Frenchwoman.

Dodin should be excellent preparation for Fernandez’s next opponent, 23-year-old Russian Ludmilla Samsonova, a 6-3, 6-1 winner Monday over qualifier Sara Bejlek, the world No. 209 from the Czech Republic.

Samsonova is a free-swinger who’s nearly 6-foot tall and comes in confident after titles this month at WTA 250 events in Washington and Cleveland.

Marino forehand
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

On Court 9 late Monday afternoon, 31-year-old Rebecca Marino reached the second round of the US Open for the first time since 2010, defeating No. 103-ranked Magdalena Frech of Poland, 6-2, 6-3.

It was pretty well one-way traffic, even when she fell behind 0-2 in the second set. “Luckily in the first set I broke her serve a few times,” Marino said about the only moment in the match when she trailed. “So being down a break in the second set I felt that could at least break her back because of the history of the first set gave the confidence to do that.”

Key numbers in the 69-minute match were Marino hitting 19 winners to 10 for the 24-year-old French and winning 63 per cent of second serve points to just 35 per cent for the Pole.

All and all it was a dominate performance for the big-hitting Vancouverite against an over-matched Frech. It sets up a second round against Daria Snigur, 20, of Ukraine, a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 upset victor over No. 7 seed Simona Halep in Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday.

Marino played Snigur in the final of a Kasiwa, Japan, ITF event during her 2019 comeback and was beaten 6-4, 6-2. “I suppose it might help me that I’m not going to underestimate her,” Marino said about what she may have learned from that match. “But I wouldn’t underestimate her considering she had a fantastic win today. She’s a (2019) junior Wimbledon champ, so she has quite the pedigree in terms of the excellent wins she has under her belt and she’s an excellent player. I know she has a very unorthodox sort of forehand, from what I recall. It’s pretty zippy and pretty killer so I won’t underestimate her at all.”

Rebecca Marino close up
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Since the Washington WTA event in July (where she defeated Venus Williams), Marino has been coached by 39-year-old Mexican ex-player Bruno Echagaray. “It’s been really fantastic working with him so far,” she said. “He’s a former player and really knows tennis. He has a good demeanour and I trust him at lot.”

Echagaray has worked with Tennis Canada and Canadian players in the past, including Stéphanie Dubois. He made it known to Tennis Canada this summer that he was available and they made the connection with Marino.

Auger-Aliassime at the net
Photo Martin Sidorjak

Félix Auger-Aliassime started his campaign to at least equal last year’s semi-final at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over qualifier Alexander Ritschard in the match that followed Andreescu – Tan in the Grandstand on Monday.

The No. 185-ranked Swiss is one of the increasing number of tall, late blooming players who can be dangerous on any given day.

Auger-Aliassime felt some of that in the opening set and faced a key moment serving for the set at 5-4 but trailing 30-40, break point. He then served and put away a full-bore forehand winner, and confidence builder. Two points later he had wrapped up the set.

The sixth seed continued in the second set but had a bit of a passage à vide (empty spell) in the third set but rebounded in the fourth to wrap up the match in three-hours and five-minutes.

“He’s a qualifier and in the main draw so he’s got nothing to lose,” Auger-Aliassime said about the 28-year-old Ritschard. “I don’t know if he plays like this all the time – he was hitting really, really hard. Whenever he was in a good position, he went for his shots and tried to hit a winner. It worked for a while and allowed him to win a set. But it’s hard to maintain that level of hitting that precisely and that hard for a whole match. So I knew that at some point I’d have my chances. He’s not the type of player who’s there on every single point and is really solid, in tennis terms, and who can maintain that level. That was sort of the story today. I didn’t get panicky because I knew I’d have my chances. But he is a really good ball striker, like a lot of players today. That why I don’t underestimate anyone – whether or not they come from the qualifying. Everybody knows how to play and hit the ball – so you have to stay vigilant.”

Auger-Aliassime also talked about his ability to bear down and play his best on the crucial points.

He will probably be tested more rigorously in that regard in round two on Wednesday when he takes on vastly-improved Jack Draper of Britain, a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 winner Monday over No. 49-ranked Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.

Draper, 20 and ranked No. 53, upset No. 5-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round at the National Bank Open in Montreal three weeks ago.

“Draper is a young player who plays well and had that good win in Montreal over Tsitsipas,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I know I obviously have my chances against him but I have to continue to do what I do well – concentrate on what I have to do and normally I’ll have chances to win. But he’s a good young player.”    

Auger-Aliassime USO 2022 backhand
Photo: Martin Sidorjak

After his friend Auger-Aliassime faced a 6-foot-4 Swiss in Ritschard on Monday, it’s No. 19 seed Denis Shapovalov’s turn on Tuesday. He’s fourth match on Court 10 after an 11 a.m. start, playing another tall man from land of Roger Federer, 6-foot-5, No. 85-ranked Marc-Andrea Huesler.

The 26-year-old lefthander reached the semi-finals of the ATP 250 event in Winston Salem, N.C. last week.