Photo : Peter Staples/ATP Tour
If there is one thing Canadian tennis players seem to have in common, it’s that they know how to mount a comeback.
Both Denis Shapovalov and Leylah Annie Fernandez rallied from a set down in their opening matches at the BNP Paribas Open to advance on Saturday evening.
First, Shapovalov overcame some inconsistency to beat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Fernandez then one-upped her compatriot by saving four match points, including three in a row when Amanda Anisimova served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, ultimately forcing a tiebreak which she won 7-0 before her opponent retired.
The two Canadians were scheduled back-to-back on Stadium 2, with Shapovalov getting off to a sluggish start against Davidovich Fokina. He struggled to find his consistency, finishing the day with 40 unforced errors and nine double faults. But as the match wore on, the Canadian played his way into form, blasting 34 winners on his way to a comeback victory.
Davidovich Fokina started putting pressure on Shapovalov’s serve right from the start by breaking in the Canadian’s first service game.
While the Spaniard did immediately surrender the break back, he continued to push and was rewarded late in the set, breaking to love when Shapovalov served at 4-5.
It looked like Davidovich Fokina might run away with the match when he continued to push early in the second set. But Shapovalov weathered an early storm and began to turn the match around, finally taking the lead by converting his fifth break point in a marathon seventh game.
Despite having to save a pair of break points as he tried to consolidate, Shapovalov was able to hang on and send the match to a deciding set.
The third started with three consecutive breaks of serve before Shapovalov held for a 4-1 lead. Once ahead, the Canadian continued to build momentum, adding a second break on his way to the third round after just over two and a half hours.
Shapovalov’s draw in Indian Wells is eerily similar to the Australian Open. Next up in round three is a rematch with Reilly Opelka, who the Canadian beat in four sets at the same stage in Melbourne.
Like Shapovalov, Fernandez got off to a slow start in her match against Amanda Anisimova, finding herself on her heels almost immediately as Anisimova threw the kitchen sink at her.
But her perseverance paid off as she was able to save four match points in the second set and extend the match to a third before her opponent had to retire with an apparent illness.
The serve threatened to send the Canadian home early, as she only put 54 percent of her first serves in play and finished the match having only won exactly 50 percent of her total serve points. But she came up big when it mattered, saving five of ten break points, including on match point at 3-5 in the second set and two at 5-5, before dominating the tiebreak, which ultimately let to Anisimova’s retirement.
Fernandez could not have gotten off to a much worse start, as she lost her first six service points of the match and 12 of the first 14 points before the first sit down as she was broken twice to go down 3-0.
That early hole proved too much for Fernandez to climb out of, as she managed to recover one of the breaks only to give it right back. The Canadian simply had to answer for Anisimova’s power, as the American teed off on every ball Fernandez left short, which were numerous.
It looked like Anisimova might run away with the match when she broke to start the second set, but this time Fernandez responded immediately to break back and level the set at 1-1.
A break in the seventh game set the American up to close out the match and she held four match points, including three on her own serve at 5-4, 40-love, but suddenly her game abandoned her as she missed all three match points and Fernandez was able to break to get back on serve at 5-5.
The American seemed to be falling apart while Fernandez dug in and refused to concede an inch. After saving two break points at 5-5, the Canadian dominated the tiebreak, sweeping the tiebreak to force a decider.
However, before the deciding set could being, an emotional Anisimova retired due to illness, allowing Fernandez to advance without hitting another ball.
Another American awaits Fernandez in the third round, as she will meet Shelby Rogers for a spot in the last sixteen.
Dabrowski reaches quarter-finals
While the singles players were competing in their opening matches, Gabriela Dabrowski has two wins under her belt already in Indian Wells.
The Ottawa native is through to the quarter-finals of the doubles competition alongside partner Giuliana Olmos after a three-set win on Saturday.
Dabrowski and Olmos had won their opening match in straight sets, but had to hold off a comeback bid by Kirsten Flipkens and Sania Mirza in the second round. After the Canadian-Mexican duo won the first set, they were extended to a third-set match tiebreak which they dominated 10-3 to reach the last eight in Indian Wells.