Denis Shapovalov pumps his fist.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

by Jonathan Yue and Pete Borkowski

Denis Shapovalov got his French Open campaign underway on Monday with a 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 marathon victory over American Brandon Nakashima, but Felix Auger-Aliassime and Rebecca Marino were not so lucky as they both fell in the first round.

Shapovalov was the first of three Canadians on court on a busy Monday at Roland-Garros and scored the most impressive result, taking down last week’s Lyon semifinalist in a wild win five-setter.

The two players had met once before on the ATP Tour, with current world no. 45 Nakashima earning the win to end Shapovalov’s run at last year’s Wimbledon. That match is well behind Shapovalov now as he got the job done in Roland-Garros.

It was a back-and-forth match all around, with the first set setting the tempo for Shapovalov and Nakashima. Trading breaks in the opening frame, the Canadian took advantage of his by going up 4-3 and holding onto serve the rest of the way to take the set.

It wasn’t easy for the 24-year-old, with 15 double faults and 68 unforced errors in the match, but the Canadian showed his trust in his forehand and net play, with 50 winners, to put pressure back onto Nakashima.

The two remained on serve for most of the second set, with Shapovalov jumping on the break point opportunity again to take the eleventh game in a run of three straight games to close out the second set 7-5.

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After dropping close third and fourth sets, a medical timeout was needed but Shapovalov would come back out to find his game again in the fifth and deciding set. Showcasing his complete skillset and continuing to lean on his forehand to paint the lines on Court 7, the Canadian fended off his American opponent’s momentum with a break in the fourth game of the set, finding his service game and groundstrokes once again en route to earning his first win over Nakashima.

This win should give the Canadian and current world no. 32 something to build off of heading into his second-round matchup, as he hasn’t had a great start on the clay. Entering the French Open, Shapovalov only has two wins on the surface this season, both at the Barcelona Open, to go with a first-round exit in Madrid in April.

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Next up for Shapovalov will be world no. 106, Matteo Arnaldi of Italy. It will be the first match between the two players but the Italian has shown he’s more than capable of taking on the top seeds, with the 20-year-old a month removed from taking out world no. 4 Casper Ruud in the second round of the Madrid Open.

Auger-Aliassime Can’t Get Going Against Fognini

Felix Auger-Aliassime will be looking to forget the 2023 clay-court season as quickly as possible as a disappointing run on the dirt this year came to an equally disappointing end as he was bounced in his first-round match in Paris by Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

Coming into Roland-Garros with just one match win on clay to his name, Auger-Aliassime never looked comfortable against the bold Italian. After the match, Auger-Aliassime revealed he had been ill the night before the match and considered not playing at all. The struggles were apparent throughout the match the Canadian could not find his top game and exited the season’s second major with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 loss.

Both men had nine break point opportunities in the match, but it was Fognini who was ruthlessly efficient, converting eight while the Canadian only managed four. The Italian was the more solid player all-around, hitting more winners, 34 to 24, and committing fewer unforced errors 32 to 41. Auger-Aliassime did himself few favours by hitting eight double faults and only won 49 per cent of his own service points.

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Auger-Aliassime was slow to get going in the match and quickly dug himself into an early hole, hitting three consecutive double faults in the third game to go down an early break.

Fognini led by as much as 4-1 up a double break in the opening set, but the Canadian managed to come within a point of leveling at 4-all after the Italian double-faulted a break away himself and then Auger-Aliassime had a look at a break point in the eighth game, but the Italian drew an error to survive and ultimately hung on to take the set.

Looking to quickly turn the tide, Auger-Aliassime broke to start the second set and grabbed a quick 2-0 lead, only for Fognini to immediately come back and level at 2-2, aided by more untimely double faults. That was part of a 4-game run that saw the Italian break again to move ahead 4-2.

The back-and-forth second set continued with the Canadian battling back to level at 4-4, only to be broken in the ninth game which proved decisive.

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In 2022, Auger-Aliassime had rallied from two sets down to win his opening match at Roland-Garros, but Fognini quickly upped the ante by breaking twice on his way to a 3-0 lead in the third set. While the Canadian reclaimed one of the breaks, he was never able to level the set and the Italian finished off the upset with a dramatic forehand winner.

Marino shows fight in loss

Looking to get out of the first round at Roland-Garros for the first time since her main-draw debut in 2011, Rebecca Marino opened her 2023 tournament with a match against 19-year-old Diana Shnaider. It wasn’t to be on Day Two at the French Open as Marino fell in straight sets 6-3, 7-5.

Under the French sun, Marino showed her ability to fight. Getting right into it, both players showed off their determination, trading break points to start the first four games of the match. Marino dropped the first set to Shnaider, but she would not let the match go without a fight.

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Coming back out onto the court for the second set, Marino charged out to take an early lead. Pushing with solid groundstrokes and putting the pressure on Shnaider’s serve, the 32-year-old Canadian broke her opponent before comfortably holding to take a 2-0 lead. After Shnaider pushed back, Marino flexed her service game, coming up with back-to-back aces in game 10, to keep it tied up at 5-5.

From there, Shnaider showed why she’s one of the top players in the NCAA and why she earned a spot in the main draw in Roland-Garros, closing out the Canadian with a break to love.

In her post-match interview, Marino revealed she was dealing with a shoulder injury that affected her forehand and limited her training in the lead-up to Roland-Garros.

Despite the first-round French Open exit, the world no. 81 still has a lot left in her season, including the grass and hard-court seasons, the latter which should be her strongest. Last year, she made it to the third round at the US Open and climbing to no. 64 in the world, her highest ranking since 2011.

Her French Open tournament will continue with her doubles partner Xu Yifan in women’s doubles on Wednesday.

Canada will continue to be represented in the singles competition with Bianca Andreescu opening her tournament on Tuesday, while Leylah Fernandez and Shapovalov qualified for the second round.