With a 1000-point tournament having taken place in Canada the week before, Canadian players understandably endured a bit of a letdown at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The National Bank Open in Canada is generally the opportunity for Canadians to shine.
Milos Raonic did well in Toronto earlier this month, for example, and Leylah Fernandez put on a show during the early rounds in Montreal.
With the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati – also a 1000-point event – the very next week on the annual tennis calendar, it is always difficult for the Canadian contingent to get right back in action.
Not too surprisingly, there was no joy in Cincinnati for the men or women from Canada.
There was only one Canadian man in the entire Cincinnati field: No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Expectations were low for Auger-Aliassime heading into the week, as the 23-year-old has been a complete disaster dating back to March. Auger-Aliassime won 11 of his first 16 matches this season; since then he is 3-9.
The world No. 14 did well to beat Matteo Berrettini 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the Cincinnati first round, which already improved on his Toronto result (lost to Max Purcell 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round). However, success would not last long. Auger-Aliassime was favored in his next match against Adrian Mannarino but fell to the French veteran 6-4, 6-4.
“I never doubted my abilities or the player I am,” Auger-Aliassime said after getting past Berrettini.
“I think I have proven to myself and others that I'm among the best players in the world in the past. Now, this year has been challenging due to different reasons: the knee injury that lasted very long kept me on the sideline and also just not playing with the intensity and the level that I can play and that I should play.”
Auger-Aliassime, in fact, was the only Canadian in the main draw on the men’s and women’s sides combined.
Leylah Fernandez and Rebecca Marino participated in the women’s tournament...but not for long. Neither one made it out of qualifying.
Interestingly, they would have gone head-to-head in the final round of qualifying but Fernandez lost her opening match 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to Emma Navarro. After Marino got a retirement from Camila Giorgi, she lost the next day to Navarro – also in three sets (4-6, 6-0, 6-1).
It was especially a disappointment for Fernandez, who has been known to play her best tennis on North American hard courts. The 20-year-old finished runner-up at the 2021 U.S Open to Emma Raducanu and she was coming off a solid third-round performance in Montreal prior to arriving in Cincinnati.
Nonetheless, it’s back to the drawing board for Fernandez – who is now playing in Cleveland before she heads to New York for the fourth and final Grand Slam on the 2023 schedule.
Raonic predictably took the week off following his exploits in Toronto, but the most glaring Canadian absence from Cincinnati was that of Bianca Andreescu.
The 2019 U.S. Open champion sustained a back injury earlier this month in Washington, D.C. and then lost right away in Montreal to Camila Giorgi. Andreescu thereafter announced her withdrawal from Cincinnati.
"My main focus will be on giving my back the rest it needs," the 23-year-old wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter). "I'll be taking things day by day and aiming to return to the court as soon as I can and stay optimistic for the U.S. Open."
As you can guess from the lack of recent results being posted by the Canadians, optimism for the upcoming US Open is minimal at best.
Auger-Aliassime has the best odds on the men’s side and he is priced at +5000 (No. 14 on the list of favorites). Andreescu is tied for 16th among women’s favorites at +4000. You can get Fernandez all the way down at +6600.