Photo: Patrice Lapointe / Tennis Canada
In the third round of the National Bank Open, Bianca Andreescu was eliminated by the combative Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.
And by yet another injury.
The World No.8 and second seed was ousted by the No.22 at the outcome of a roller-coaster three-setter (6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1).
With a break on each side, Bianca prevailed in the tough first-set tiebreaker but paid the price when she was forced to take a timeout to get treatment on her foot. When play got underway again in the second set, Ons didn’t spare her rival, sending her to every corner of the court with a string of drop shots.
Adding to the drama were the boisterous clusters of fans from the Arab and Tunisian communities who cheered loudly and made the match feel like a major international showdown.
At 3-2 for Jabeur, with Andreescu on serve at 40-0, a quick downpour put things on pause for an hour.
Then, at 9:52 p.m., down 3-4, the Canadian ran into more bad luck. Sprinting at full speed, she slipped and fell. An uneasy silence came over Centre Court, and medical staff was called in to assess her left toe.
After seven minutes for treatment and eight more minutes for another rain delay, the second set ended on a break by Jabeur. One set all.
In the third, Bianca found the courage to fight through the pain and finish the match as her rival dispatched her all over the court—a harsh but totally sensible strategy.
“ I’m super disappointed in how I played, but at the same time Ons played super well. I tried to play my best with what I had today. She was kind of disrupting my rhythm a little bit. The whole toe situation didn’t help at all. I wish my serve was a bit better today. She definitely took advantage of that.
Has she considered withdrawing from the match?
“I’m sick and tired of retiring. Yeah, for sure I could have, but I did not want to tonight. It’s super bruised. It hurt on a lot of shots. I try not to show it. She also took advantage of that. She was just playing lights out in the third set. Didn’t give me anything to really feed off of. Yeah, I hope my toe’s going to be good for my next tournaments.”
Besides the emergence of a new type of injury and the disappointment of elimination, Andreescu remained a philosopher.
“I’m only 21. Yeah, I won this tournament before. I know I could have won this tournament again. But sometimes shit happens and you basically have to move on. That’s life. Like I’m healthy. Yeah, this whole toe situation is whatever, but at least like I didn’t sprain an ankle or anything like that. I just want to look at the positive. (…) I know that I’m going to bounce back.”
When things were all said and done, Ons Jabeur kept her phenomenal 36-13 season going strong.
In her post-match interview on Centre Court, realizing how close the match was, she explained (in French!) that she survived all the plot twists by staying focused. “It was not easy, but I kept my concentration because I wanted to win. The first set was very close.”
To her hundreds of supporters in the stands, whose energy carried her to the end, she said: “I feel like home, here. The Canadian crowd is really nice and I hope that they will follow me.”“
One thing is certain, Jabeur will have the backing of Andreescu herself. Because, recognizing the Tunisian’s exceptional season, she gave her her vote.
“I told her she has to win the tournament now (laughter).”
Marino: the fairy tale comes to an end
Veteran Rebecca Marino was the other Canadian still in the mix. Up until Thursday afternoon, she was the surprise—and even the fairy tale—of this summer’s National Bank Open.
But the fairy tale didn’t have the happy ending we all wanted.
An hour after the first serve, World No.3 and top seed Aryna Sabalenka yanked Marino—and all of Canada—back down to Earth (6-1, 6-3).
After the match, the Vancouverite had only good things to say about her opponent. She recognized all she’s accomplished this week, including her wins over Keys and Badosa.
“Getting back-to-back Top 40 wins is pretty special out there,” she said. “I think also it felt like not only did I have the crowd and the fans in Montréal, I really felt it from coast to coast in Canada. It was a really special moment. I will remember it for a long, long time.”
We certainly hope her performance will eventually put her back in the Top 100, if only for the jolt of confidence she’ll get. As far as her current ranking, her third-round appearance at the National Bank Open will move her up 45 spots. On Monday, she should be around No.175.
“In my heart I feel like I belong with these players, I belong at this level. I feel like the results kind of demonstrated that self-belief I had. It just takes a little while to climb. I’m glad I got to show everyone how I played,”
She’s now aiming to do well in the US Open qualifying event to rack up more points and keep progressing in the rankings.
That said, Marino’s early match today wasn’t her only run-in with Aryna Sabalenka. Later in the afternoon, the two went head-to-head again in their doubles match. In the end, Marino and Fernandez fell to the powerful Belarusian and Elise Mertens of Belgium, 7-6, 6-2.
Sabalenka and Mertens are the first seeds in the doubles draw. In the quarters, they will take on yet another Canadian: Gabriela Dabrowski and Luisa Stefani of Brazil, who ousted Emina Bektas of the US and Tara Moore of the UK in the second round (7-5, 6-2).
Not over ‘til it’s over
Those immortal words attributed to baseball legend Yogi Berra rang very true on Thursday night.
In an epic battle of living metronomes, Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain got the better of Diego Schwartzman of Argentina after nearly three hours, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
In the third set, Schwartzman produced three match points but couldn’t close things out. Then, 20 minutes later, Bautista Agut let his own match point slip. He consolidated the next one and booked his ticket for a quarterfinal clash with Reilly Opelka.
Speaking of Opelka, the towering American sent Lloyd Harris packing (4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4)) at the outcome of their three-hour battle. And, by the way, Lloyd Harris also had a match point in the second-set tiebreaker but couldn’t capitalize on it.
Like Yogi said, the game’s not over ‘til it’s over.
Gauff doesn’t break a sweat
Coco Gauff has played her way into the quarters.
More or less.
After her 5-0 win over Anastasia Potapova, who bowed out due to injury, the 17-year-old didn’t even have to show up for her next match against Johanna Konta of the UK, who was forced to withdraw because of a left knee injury.
Heading into the quarterfinals, the World No.24 has therefore spent a total of 87 minutes on the court. She’ll definitely be well rested, but playing so little tennis isn’t always recommended at such a high-caliber tournament. But we shall see.
Her next opponent is No.71 Camila Giorgi. They’ve met once, last May in Parma, where Gauff got the upper hand (6-2, 6-3).
Chrónia pollá, Stéfanos!
Happy birthday, indeed! To celebrate his 23rd birthday, Stefanos Tsitsipas waltzed into the quarters of the National Bank Open with a two-set win over Karen Khachanov of Russia (6-3, 6-2). He now faces Casper Ruud of Norway.
As expected, at his match this afternoon, the crowd sang Happy Birthday and organizers carried out a cake for the tennis titan, who seemed very pleased.
For Tsitsipas, tournament birthdays are always the best birthdays.
Well, almost always.
In 2017, he didn’t feel like celebrating: “It was here in Toronto, three years ago, when I played Rafa in the final. It’s kind of a bittersweet experience.”