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Australian Open: How did Canadians fare?

Based on Canadian tennis players' performances at the 2024 Australian Open, there may be a lengthy wait before any Canadians win the country's first major since 2019.

Bianca Andreescu, who won the US Open in 2019, was forced to miss the first Grand Slam of the season due to a back injury which meant world number 32 Leylah Fernandez and qualifier Rebecca Marino were the only two female Canadian players in the main draw at Melbourne Park.

Fernandez was unable to justify her seeding and fell victim to American youngster Alycia Parks in the second round, while Marino faced an uphill task in round one against world number five Jessica Pegula.

There was greater Canadian competition in the men’s draw with 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic joined by world number 27 Felix Auger-Aliassime and former quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, who is still on his way back from injury.

However, it was also a disappointing showing from the Canadian men, with the injury-ravaged Raonic forced to retire in his opening showdown with Australian Alex De Minaur.

Shapovalov, having been sidelined since Wimbledon last summer, was unable to put his best foot forward and, although Auger-Aliassime fared best of the Canadian challenge, he was no match for third seed Daniil Medvedev in his third-round encounter.

Raonic’s playing days may be limited

Milos Raonic has mixed it up with the best but injuries have played a big part in his fall from grace.

The 33-year-old finished runner-up to Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2016 and has made the quarter-final of the Australian Open on five occasions, most recently doing so in 2020.

However, the former world number three is now at a career-low ranking of 318 and that is because the injuries are starting to take their toll.

Raonic did compete at this season’s Australian Open, courtesy of having a protected ranking by the organisers, but that was only his fourth Grand Slam appearance since the 2021 edition at Melbourne Park.

And it was another gut-wrenching loss for the Canadian, who was forced to retire with an injury during his first-round showdown with classy Australian De Minaur.

The big-serving Raonic had won the opening set in a tiebreak, showing some of his old zest, but lost the second set 6-3 and was down 2-0 in the third when throwing in the towel.

Suffering setback after setback is not only physically demanding but it is mentally draining, too. Many feel this could be the final season for Raonic, who is an eight-time winner on the ATP Tour.

Auger-Aliassime still carries the Canadian baton

Auger-Aliassime has not kicked on as many expected after he made the US Open semi-final in 2021, but time is still on the side of the athletic 23-year-old.

Auger-Aliassime, seeded 27th for the first Grand Slam of the season, showed plenty of fight as he overcame Dominic Thiem in five sets in round one before getting the better of French qualifier Hugo Grenier in four sets.

The Montreal man was then outclassed in the third round by Medvedev, losing 6-3 6-4 6-3, but there is little shame in that given the Russian went on to make the final.

However, Auger-Aliassime was ranked as high as sixth in the world in November two years ago and is now at world number 30 after struggling for most of 2023.

The Canadian is a five-time winner on the ATP Tour, so knows how to get over the line, and if he can rediscover his peak form then he may be his nation’s best Grand Slam hope.

Shapovalov is another who will believe he can challenge for Grand Slam silverware in the years to come, but he must put a disappointing couple of campaigns behind him.

The 24-year-old has been plagued by injury, falling from world number ten to world number 114 in the process, and his Australian Open campaign ended at the first hurdle.

Shapovalov suffered a straight-set defeat to Czech qualifier Jakub Mensik in the opening round, although that was his first Slam appearance since Wimbledon last summer.

Fernandez needs to raise her game

With Andreescu currently injured and having to prove she is still as good as when she won the US Open in 2019, Canada’s hopes on the WTA Tour rest with Fernandez.

Fernandez was a relatively unknown proposition until finishing runner-up to Emma Raduacanu at the 2021 US Open, although she has been unable to build on that since.

The 21-year-old has made the quarter-final in only one of her eight subsequent Grand Slam starts and her dreadful Australian Open record continued this season.

Fernandez came through her opener against Sara Bejlek but she was soundly beaten 7-5 6-4 by Alycia Parks, a player 50 places below her in the world rankings, in round two.

That means the Canadian youngster has won only two matches in five visits to the Australian Open, something which will need to be improved upon next season.

Fernandez is still a relatively inexperienced player, however, so she is sure to have plenty of good days ahead of her and she is already a three-time winner on the WTA Tour.

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