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The 2023 tennis season is already under way, and we are only a few days away from the first slam of the year. Coming off a stellar 2022 season, Canadian tennis players are ready to take on the new challenge. Carrying positive momentum from a historical maiden Davis Cup title, the top Canadian players at the Australian Open have a realistic chance to win the first major of the season.
Canada has featured at least one seeded player in the Australian Open for 14 consecutive years. And for the fifth edition in a row, Canadian tennis has at least two seeded players in the men’s singles tournament.
The 2023 Australian Open will take place from January 15 to January 29. But there are other important dates to keep an eye on. The qualifier begins on January 8, and the main tournament draw takes place on January 12.
Best Canadian Players at the 2023 Australian Open – Men’s and Women’s Singles
Six Canadian players have entered the main draw – three apiece between the men’s and women’s singles. A further five players are also in the qualifier – two in the men’s tournament and three in the women’s tournament. Canada has a realistic shot at winning its first ever men’s singles major title. The prospects, however, become a bit trickier for the women’s tournament.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from the top Canadian players at the Australian Open.
Félix Auger-Aliassime – 19/1 (+1,900) @ Ladbrokes
Already one of the top players in the ATP Tour since 2019, Auger-Aliassime is coming off a breakout season. After years of chasing the elusive first title as a pro, the 22-year old from Montreal finally broke the proverbial duck in February 2022 with a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rotterdam Open. Prior to that, Auger-Aliassime had eight runner-up finishes. And he nearly made it back-to-back titles, dropping the Open 13 final to Andrey Rublev the following week.
His form dipped during the spring and summer tournaments. Following three consecutive quarter finals appearances at slams, Auger-Aliassime dropped out of Wimbledon in the second round and was eliminated in the first round at the US Open. But the young Canadian picked himself up again and went on an impressive run. He won three consecutive titles in a three-week span, capping off the run at the Swiss Indoors in Basel for his second ATP 500 title of the season.
At the end of the year, the 22-year old delivered a masterclass at the Davis Cup. Auger-Aliassime won his three singles rubbers and also added one win in the doubles, leading the country to its first title at the traditional teams’ event.
Entering the tournament as the #6 seed, Auger-Aliassime is one of the favorites for the men’s singles title. His 2023 season didn’t get off to the best possible start with a first round exit at the Adelaide International, but don’t read too much into this: considering his red-hot finish in 2022, Auger-Aliassime is still among the top contenders for the Australian Open title.
In a rather ironic twist, Aliassime was drawn against fellow Canadian Vasik Pospisil in round 1. After an unexpectedly dominant first set from Pospisil, Aliassime bounced back and won back-to-back tiebreaks before wrapping up the match in four sets.
The #6 seed struggled to convert his break points and saw Pospisil dominate along the net, but managed to keep his composure and ultimately secured the hard-fought victory over his compatriot.
Aliassime faced off against Slovak Alex Molcan in the second round. In one of the most surprising matches of the day, Molcan had Aliassime on the verge of elimination. The Slovak dominated the encounter from the start, quickly going up 2-0 and well on his way to the third round. But Aliassime came back to life in the third set and took control of the match, pulling off the miraculous comeback.
Trying to shake off his slow start to the tournament, the 22-year old Canadian faced a tricky matchup in the third round against the #28 seed, Argentine Francisco Cerundolo. This time around, Aliassime looked closer to his 2022 self. His first set was almost flawless, with a late break from Cerundolo preventing a bagel. The Argentine fought back in the second set, tying the match. But from then on, it was all Aliassime. The young Canadian consistently pressured Cerundolo’s service games, finishing the match with 20 break opportunities while converting a respectable six.
But it wasn’t meant to be for Aliassime. Going up against 21-year old Jiri Lehecka in the fourth round, the Canadian lost in four sets. After a decent start to the match and winning the first set, Aliassime had no answers to Lehecka’s consistent ball-hitting. The young Czech moved the Canadian around the court and patiently waited for Aliassime’s errors. The 22-year old from Montreal will undoubtedly leave the tournament feeling some frustration following an overall subpar performance. Aliassime failed to repeat or improve on his quarterfinals appearance from one year ago, and will lose some points as a result.
Dennis Shapovalov -99/1 (+9,900) @ Ladbrokes
Shapovalov had another solid year in 2022, although he failed to make it back inside the top 15. His year got off to a solid start with a career-best quarter finals appearance at the Australian Open. The 23-year old then had a disappointing run during the clay and grass seasons, which included a first round exit at the French Open. Shapovalov also faced an early exit at Wimbledon. Having made it to the semifinals the previous year, the Canadian dropped out during the second round and tumbled down the ranking as a consequence.
Shapovalov then turned things around during the fall tournaments. It all started in the U.S. Open, which saw the Canadian force a five-set thriller against Rublev. He then followed it up with his first final of the year, losing to Yoshihito Nishioka at the Korea Open. The young Canadian reached the semifinals in Tokyo the following week, and scored another runner-up finish at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna – his first ATP 500 final. He was also part of the Davis Cup team, putting up a 1-3 record in singles and a 1-0 record in doubles.
Shapovalov is a long-shot to win the Australian Open title. Although his 27-15 record on the hard surface is encouraging, the 23-year old’s aggressive playing style always makes him a risky pick even on a game-by-game basis. Shapovalov has a good shot of making it past the first week, but don’t expect him to be among the title contenders.
Shapovalov was his usual self in round 1. The Canadian scored a 3-1 win over Dulsan Lajovic, dishing out winners left, right and center along with more than a few unforced errors and double faults. After dropping the second set, Shapovalov took control of the match once again and managed to send his opponent home.
The 23-year old took on Japanese-American Taro Daniel in the second round. Once again, it was all about Shapovalov: the Canadian hit 53 winners to a mere eight from Daniel, but also had 55 unforced errors. In the end, he triumphed in straight sets to set up a clash of titans against Hubert Hurkacz in the third round.
Shapovalov dropped out of the tournament following a five-set thriller against the Pole. Hurkacz took an early two-set lead, but the Canadian managed to fight back with two stellar performances. Shapovalov won five consecutive games in the third set and clawed back from an early break in the fourth to force the decisive set. But strong service games from Hurkacz combined with multiple errors from Shapovalov ultimately decided the match. Once again, the Canadian struggled with the usual problems: Shapovalov finished the duel with an eye-popping 16 double faults to go along with 63 unforced errors. He will lose some points in the ATP rankings as well, having failed to match his quarterfinals bid from a year ago.
Leylah Fernandez – 49/1 (+4,900) @ Ladbrokes
Fernandez had a meteoric rise in 2021. In only her second year as a pro, the then 18-year old Canadian won the Monterrey Open, her first career title at the WTA Tour level. She then went on to shock the world at the U.S. Open, reaching the final while defeating reigning champion Naomi Osaka and the #2 seed Aryna Sabalenka along the way. Fernandez lost to Emma Raducanu, finishing runner-up in what had only been her seventh main draw appearance.
The 20-year old failed to repeat her slam success in 2022. Although Fernandez did make it to the quarterfinals at the French Open, she also suffered a foot fracture during the tournament. The injury naturally led to a drop in performance. Having climbed to a career-best #13 in the WTA rankings, Fernandez failed to defend her points at the U.S. Open following a second round exit. She then tumbled down the order to #40.
Expect the young Canadian to bounce back in 2023. Already recovered from the foot injury, Fernandez will likely get back on the winning track. That being said, don’t get your hopes too high for the Australian Open: she has never made it past the first round in three appearances.
If you believe that the fourth time is the charm, then betting on a win in the opener could be an option. Bear in mind, however, that Fernandez is also coming off a first round exit in Adelaide. Her form will improve as the year goes on, but it’s better to keep the expectations in check for the first major of the season.
And fourth was, indeed, the charm: Fernandez finally advanced past the opening round, scoring her first win of the year in the process. The young Canadian conceded a single break point, but otherwise cruised to a win over the much more experienced Alize Cornet.
The draw wasn’t very kind to her, however: Fernandez had to take on Caroline Garcia, currently #4 in the WTA rankings, in the second round. The Frenchman had previously taken down another Canadian, Katherine Sebov, in the first round.
Despite a valiant effort from Fernandez, she ultimately fell in straight sets. The 20-year old created some chances with nine break points, but failed to convert on eight of them. Garcia, meanwhile, was absolutely lethal and converted two of her three break opportunities, taking a close win.
The performance still marked a career-best for Fernandez in Melbourne, which bodes well for the rest of the year.
Other Canadian Players at the 2023 Australian Open
Canada has three other players in the main draw aside from those mentioned above. In men’s singles, 32-year old veteran Vasik Pospisil will try to continue his comeback after returning to the top 100 in 2022. As mentioned above, Pospisil lost to Aliassime in the first round despite putting on a valiant effort.
In the women’s singles tournament, Bianca Andreescu and Rebecca Marino will join Leylah Fernandez. Andreescu is still trying to regain her form, with injuries derailing her career following the 2019 U.S. Open title. She remains the only Canadian player to win a major title in singles, but should be considered an outside shot at best for the Australian Open title.
Andreescu defeated Marie Bouzková, the #25 seed, in straight sets. The former US Open champion then took on Cristina Bucșa in the second round, but fell in a three-set comeback loss.
Marino is coming off a career-best major, having reached the third round in the U.S. Open. Both Fernandez and Marino will take part in the women’s doubles tournament, partnering Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Brengle respectively.
Marino lost to Chinese Zhu Lin in the first round. She, along with Fernandez, is yet to play in the doubles main draw.
If you want to keep up with qualifiers, Alexis Garlaneau and Gabriel Diallo will try to secure a spot in the main draw for the men’s singles tournament. Carol Zhao, Katherine Sebov and former Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard have entered the women’s singles qualifiers.
Out of these players, Sebov was the only one to make it into the main draw. But, as cited earlier, the 24-year old from Kleinburg lost to the #4 seed, Caroline Garcia, in the first round.