Canadian juniors continued their fine play at the French Open on Friday as No. 5 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 11 Félix Auger-Aliassime reached the semifinals. Their unseeded compatriot Benjamin Sigouin was not so fortunate – following a marathon 13-11 third-set victory on Thursday he was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Frenchman Geoffrey Blancaneaux.

Auger-Aliassime from Montreal and Shapovalov from Richmond Hill, Ont., advanced with straightset wins – Auger-Aliassime beating Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina 6-3, 7-5 while Shapovalov was dominant in a 6-4, 6-2 victory over top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.


Shapovalov broke serve in the opening game against the 17-year-old Tsitsipas and was in command the rest of the way. “I played solid and was consistent throughout the whole match,” the 17-year-old said.

The top-seeded Greek, who is 6-foot-4, had to play two matches on Thursday after all the rain postponements that have plagued the 2016 tournament. “I knew he might be a little tired,” Shapovalov said about Tsitsapis, “he’s played a lot of tournaments lately. I could tell he kind of faded in the second set.”

Shapovalov himself is feeling the effects of a lot of recent tennis – including a singles and a doubles (a loss) match played on Thursday.

“I’m a little sore after yesterday,” he said on Friday.

In the semifinals, he will face the unseeded Blancaneaux on Saturday. They have not played but Shapovalov is aware the Frenchman is a game competitor and comes with a vocal home cheering section for the match to be played in 3,802-seat Court 1. It’s third match on after an 11 a.m. start and will probably begin between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. EDT in Canada.


Following up on a chat about nicknames from Thursday, Shapovalov was told that nickname-loving Aussies would probably call him Shapo.’ “That’s what Guillaume (Marx, a Tennis Canada coach in Montreal) calls me and I like it,” he smiled.

About Shapovalov’s quarter-final effort, Louis Borfiga, Tennis Canada vice-president for high performance development, said,it was a really good match. He was playing a very good player. He was really sound from the beginning to the end – playing an extremely solid brand of tennis. It was a terrific performance by Denis.”


Auger-Aliassime was not as commanding against Olivieri, although it looked like it might be that way when he took a 5-1 lead in the opening set. But the 5-foot-7 Argentine hung in and Aliassime lost a bit of edge before finally serving out the set to 30 in the ninth game.

The second set was much more of a struggle. Auger-Aliassime faced break points serving at 2-3 and again at 3-4 but held on.

“I got a little nervous and angry at myself,” he said about the tight second set. “But I stayed fairly calm and that’s what helped me in the end. He had some break points and the match could have swung but again today my serve really helped me.”

Borfiga confirmed that analysis. “With Félix today it was sort of funny because he was a little bit nervous,” the former French Tennis Federation official said. “I have a feeling in his head he was thinking that it was one of the easiest matches since the beginning of the tournament against an opponent who was pretty steady. What’s good in his case is that while not playing too well he was able to win. That takes a certain maturity.”


That maturity involves keeping his composure and using his head (see above) …as well as relying on his serve to bail him out of trouble. “When I’m nervous or my other shots aren’t working,” said the 6-foot-3 Auger-Aliassime, “the serve is the one shot I control and it allows me to win points.”

Auger-Aliassime, who reached the final of an ITF Futures event in Spain last month, talked about the various levels of international competition for a young player with an ATP ranking like his No. 619.

“A Grand Slam junior tournament is as tough, or maybe tougher than a Futures tournament,” he said. “It’s tougher to win a Grand Slam junior tournament than a $10,000 (Futures) but Challengers are another level against players that really push you. They don’t give away any free points.”


In Saturday’s semifinal (like Shapovalov it’s third match on) to be played in 1,445-seat Court 2, Auger-Aliassime will face Nicola Kuhn, who was born in Austria but now represents Spain internationally. The 16-year-old Kuhn was a practice partner for Milos Raonic last Saturday before the world No. 9’s round-of-16 match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He looked quite impressive during the 30-minute hit.

Auger-Aliassime, 15, has played the 5-foot-11 Spaniard – losing 6-3, 6-3 to him in the 2015 Junior Davis Cup competition final in Madrid when Kuhn represented Germany.


Along with Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, Sigouin was on the Canadian team that won the Junior Davis Cup last October.

He was the third man at the time but has made significant progress of late.

On Friday in Court 17 at the rear of the grounds, Sigouin was just slightly outplayed by the 17-year-old Blancaneaux.

It could not have been easy, after his twoandahalfhour 5-7, 6-4, 13-11 win over Australian Alexei Popyrin the previous day, to be feeling fresh on Friday. “It wasn’t so bad,” Sigouin said. “I was expecting it to be worse. I thought I recovered pretty well after yesterday and woke up not bad today.”

The first set with Blancaneaux was close but the Frenchman was always ahead and pulled away to win it 6-3. In the second, things looked bleak when Sigouin fell behind 3-1 but he fought back and led 5-3.

“I was serving for it at 5-3 and I knew it was going to be a tough game because he plays every game pretty hard,” Sigouin said after the match. “It’s not really an easy game with him. I had to play well and I didn’t there.”


Despite the disappointment Sigouin, who won the pre-French Open international junior tournament in Charleroi, Belgium, was upbeat about his quarter-final run at Roland Garros.

“It was pretty surreal, the whole experience was awesome,” he said. “I can only take positives away from it. Yesterday (the win over Popyrin) was pretty incredible and today, even playing a French player in the quarter-finals in front of the crowd was actually pretty fun.

“They were alive, not as bad as yesterday, but they were there.  I was expecting it so it was in my head before the match.”

That planted a seed of distraction that may not have helped his performance but he was not about to make excuses.

Looking at the positives, he said, “I know I can compete with everyone in the tournament. There’s not one guy here that I can’t compete with. So that’s what I’m going to take out of it.”

He now moves on to Roehampton in London for the pre-Wimbledon junior event taking place the first week of the main tournament. But before that he heads home to Vancouver and plans to practice on the grass courts of the Hollyburn Country Club.

“I’ve never played on grass before but it should be interesting,” he said. “I know the movement is going to be difficult but I feel I have the tools to do well on grass.”


Talking about Sigouin’s match with Blancaneaux, Borfiga said, “I just saw the end of it (all three Canadians were on at once). I really like the way he played. He was down by a set and 3-1 and I was impressed by the way he reacted. He gritted his teeth and came back against a very good player. He has no reason to have any regrets.”

Meanwhile, Sigouin’s pals Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov will play on Saturday on Parisian red clay with a chance for an all-Canadian junior boys final on Sunday.

“‘Ooh-la-la,’ there’s still a long road ahead because the further you go in the tournament, the better the players are,” an excited but cautiously optimistic Borfiga said about the chances of Canadian vs. Canadian in the final. “But it’s certain that it’s a possibility.”

With a weather forecast for cloud cover, lightly scattered showers and a high of 21 degrees on Saturday, it looks like more of the same for the 2016 French Open. The outlook for Sunday is sun and cloud, lightly scattered showers and a high of 24.

The latter forecast would please Auger-Aliassime who joked, “we’d like to play with the sun out again. It would be nice to play at least one match in Paris with the sun out.”

Paris postcard


This is a Paris postman on his daily rounds, with his little push cart nearby ready to move on. Check out the door on the left – it has a reptile figure door handle.