Leylah Fernandez lunges to hit a forehand.

Photo : Mauricio Paiz

The singles draws for the Canadians at the 2023 US Open were rough to say the least.

A day after both men were eliminated in the first round, the remaining Canadians in singles were eliminated as both Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino, the only two Canadian women in the singles, lost their opening matches.

It was a gutsy performance that Canadian tennis fans have become accustomed to from Fernandez even in defeat as the 20-year-old lost a heartbreaker 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4 to world no. 20 Ekaterina Alexandrova in her opening round match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday afternoon.

On paper, the contest had the potential to be a close one, especially since they had split their first two meetings, and that’s exactly what happened over three hours of intense, back-and-forth play between two adversaries with contrasting game styles.  

In the opening set, Fernandez, the 2021 finalist in New York, twice went up a break but was unable to consolidate her lead with a hold of serve. In the tiebreak, she erased a 2-4 deficit and once again her opponent was unphased as she reeled off three straight points to seal the deal in a set that could have gone either way.


The Canadian found herself down a break in set two at 1-3 and appeared on her way out of the tournament. Not only did she get back on even terms, but she also served for the set twice and finally converted her second opportunity in the twelfth game to level the match and force a decisive third frame.

In the final set, the big momentum swings continued as Alexandrova, who reached the final of the WTA tournament in Cleveland over the weekend, returned to the court determined to step up her aggression and hit even bigger off the ground. Her plan propelled her to a 3-0 lead and forced Fernandez to weather the storm once more, which she did in impressive fashion as her fighting spirit continued to shine through. She saved a break point to avoid going down 0-4 and then managed to win four straight games and had a chance to up 5-3, but just couldn’t hold on to her advantage and that was the opening Alexandrova needed to come away with a hard-fought victory to reach round two.

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The loss caps the North American hard court summer for Fernandez which was highlighted by a third-round appearance at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal, a result which allowed her to jump back into the top 70 on the WTA rankings.

Marino Last Canadian Eliminated in Singles

Hopes for at least one Canadian advancing in New York fell to Rebecca Marino, but the Vancouverite was unable to pull through as she was edged in two tight sets by Patricia Maria Tig.

The Canadian, who reached the third round of the US Open last year, rallied from a break down in both sets, but came up short in two tiebreaks to exit with a 7-6(6), 7-6(1) loss.

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A few key points ultimately made the difference as Marino hit more winners, 29 to 20, and had more break point opportunities, but she also had far more unforced errors with 41 to Tig’s 32 and only won 39 per cent of her second serve points.

Tig got off to a strong start, breaking Marino in the third game, but the Canadian responded immediately by breaking back in the following game. The Romanian had a pair of break points in the fifth game to reclaim the lead, but an error and a Marino winner erased the threat.

Marino applied pressure to the Tig serve as the Romanian served to stay in it at 4-5 and 5-6 but could not create a set point. She then found herself down a minibreak twice early in the tiebreak. Despite Marino rallying and leading 5-3 on her own serve, Tig upped her power and won five of the last six points, capping off the set with a forehand winner followed by an unreturnable serve.

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It looked like Tig would run away with the match when she broke for a 2-0 lead, but just like the first set Marino responded immediately, ripping back-to-back forehand winners to get back on serve. The Canadian won four straight games to go up 4-2 and served for the set at 5-4, even holding a set point but missed a forehand. However, Tig fought back to break for 5-5.

Unlike the opening set tiebreak, it was one-way traffic for the Romanian who raced out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back to secure the win.

For the first time since 2008, no Canadians advanced to the second round of the US Open in singles. Fernandez and Gabriela Dabrowski are competing in the women’s doubles.