Tebbutt: Everyone is working this weekend
Back when no Canadians had played a match on the first weekend in the main draw of a major tournament like the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, that meant no one had a high enough ranking to get a direct entry or that no one had done through the qualifying event.
Canada’s best players don’t even start until the weekend these days, as is the case with Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Leylah Annie Fernandez at the 2022 BNP Paribas Open. With Auger-Aliassime ranked No. 9, Shapovalov No. 13 and Fernandez at No. 21, they are indeed among the 32 seeds and receive byes, which means a later start in the tournament.
It has been an incredible transformation over the past 10 years. Until then, no Canadian had placed in the top 40, and only Carling Bassett-Seguso (No. 8 in 1985) and Aleksandra Wozniak (No. 21 in 2009) had broken through the top-25 barrier for women.
It has been a boon in the years since with Bianca Andreescu ranking at No. 4 (2019), Genie Bouchard at No. 5 (2016) and Fernandez, last month, breaking into the Top 20 at No. 19 While in men Milos Raonic reached No. 3 (2016), Auger-Aliassime No. 9 (2022), Shapovalov No. 10 (2020) and Vasek Pospisil No. 25 in (2014).
It will be difficult this year for Fernandez, Auger-Aliassime or Shapovalov to match the best Canadian results in Indian Wells as Andreescu won the title (Angelique Kerber) in 2019 and Raonic finished second behind Novak Djokovic in 2016.
After a disappointing 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4) fourth-round loss to Shelby Rogers in the California desert last October (his first event after being a US Open runner-up), Fernandez hopes to do better but faces potentially fierce opposition early on – starting with Amanda Anisimova of the United States on Saturday. That first meeting between the two players was set up by the No. 43-ranked American’s 6-2, 6-2 victory over fellow No. 200-ranked Emma Navarro on Thursday night.
Anisimova, 21, has received plenty of sympathy on the tour since her father/coach Konstantin died suddenly aged 52 of a heart attack in August 2020.
She is participating in the 2022 BNP Paribas Open fresh off of a bumper $150,000 (USD) win-win at the Tie Break Tens exhibition at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Wednesday night. She beat Maria Sakkari 10-7 in the final and said she would donate part of her prize money to relief efforts in Ukraine.
That’s a lot more money — minus the charitable donation — than the $30,130 she’ll make if she reaches the third round with a win over Fernandez.
Fernandez, who was beaten by Paula Badosa in the Tie Break Tens, will probably prefer to feed on a doubles result on Thursday night to build confidence for the match against Anisimova. She put on a sparkling display with Alizé Cornet as they upset second seed Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai 1-6, 7-6(7), [10-8] in front of a friendly, partisan crowd in Stadium 4.
Of course, Fernandez can mostly feel like she’s at the top of her game after her second consecutive title at the WTA 250 event in Monterrey, Mexico last weekend.
Anisimova is one of the biggest hitters on the tour and if Fernandez gets past the 5-foot-11 American, she could face an even bigger hitter in the formidable Latvian Jelena Ostapenko. The 2017 Roland Garros champion has recently found a rich vein of form. Fernandez – Ostapenko could be a taste of a clash when Canada host Latvia in the Billie Jean King Cup next month in Vancouver.
Denis Shapovalov makes his fourth Indian Wells appearance – the best result being a Round of 16 in 2019 – when he takes on No. 45-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Saturday. The 22-year-old passed a stern test on Thursday against No. 167 Borna Coric, the 25-year-old Croatian who returns after more than a year out of action following shoulder surgery. Davidovich Fokina won 6-7(5), 6-0, 7-5 in two hours and 23 minutes. It will be a first meeting between the Spaniard and his 22-year-old Canadian compatriot.
Shapovalov had a solid year with his only first defeats against Jiri Lehecka in Rotterdam and Arthur Rinderknech in Doha. In his last outing in Dubai he looked set to reach the final before losing in the semis 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(3) to the tournament revelation Jiri Vesely from the Czech Republic.
Beyond Davidovich Fokina for 13and– the top seed Shapovalov could be No. 17 Reilly Opelka in the third round and No. 4 Rafael Nadal in the round of 16.
Shapovalov is in Indian Wells with his new coach Jamie Delgado and has added longtime Canadian prop Peter Polansky (pictured above) to the support team for the event. Polansky, coming from the Davis Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, last weekend, had hoped to play qualifying but missed out by one place.
Had Novak Djokovic pulled out of the tournament earlier, No.9 seed Auger-Aliassime (above with Reilly Opelka on Thursday) would have been in the top eight and might have had an easier draw. But as things stand, he’s not out of luck with an opener on Sunday against No. 47-ranked Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp or No. 153 American qualifier Tennys Sandgren. Auger-Aliassime is head to head 1-0 against van de Zandschulp (Stockholm 2021) and 1-1 with Sandgren (loser at Cincinnati 2020 and winner at Acapulco 2021).
Auger-Aliassime returns to action after winning his maiden title (Stefanos Tsitsipas) in Rotterdam last month before losing in the final (Andrey Rublev) in Marseille the following week. He then made one of his rare visits to his home in Montreal, one that included an appearance on the popular talk show Everybody talks about it.
After Indian Wells and Miami Open in two weeks, Auger-Aliassime’s schedule for the upcoming clay-court season will begin in Monte Carlo on April 10 (bye week), Estoril (most a bye week), Madrid and Rome before Roland Garros begins on May 22.
BE CAREFUL OF YOUR P’s and Q’s
You may have to squint a little, but it will be worth it to see the warning on the front door of this thrift store in Palm Desert.