Changing of the guard: Andreescu rallies to put away Bouchard in all-Canadian clash

Bianca Andreescu and Eugenie Bouchard started exchanging messages over Instagram when they found out they’d be playing each other in the first round of the Rogers Cup.

Any nerves about the all-Canadian matchup were set aside when Bouchard told the 19-year-old Andreescu: “Let’s put on a show.”

Under the lights at centre court, they did just that.

Andreescu, who grew up in nearby Mississauga, Ont., defeated Bouchard 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 Tuesday night in two hours nine minutes in front of a packed Aviva Centre crowd that seemed to be rooting for both players.

“We were actually saying how cool it is that Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and Vasek [Pospisil] were playing each other in the first round [in Montreal] and then me and her, and that’s good for Canadian tennis,” Bouchard said. “I was like ‘yeah, let’s just put on a show out there. And she was like ‘yeah, let’s go.”‘

Andreescu, in her first match since re-aggravating a shoulder injury at the French Open in May, started slow but finished strong to take the match.

She won the deciding point when Bouchard sailed a return wide. Andreescu, who had been animated throughout the match, replied with a subdued fist pump before hugging her Fed Cup teammate at the net.

She won 69 per cent of her first-service points, converted 6-of-12 break points and saved 4-of-8.

Watch Andreescu win a marquee all-Canadian matchup against Bouchard:

Bianca Andreescu won a marquee matchup against fellow Canadian Genie Bouchard in the first round of the Rogers Cup. 2:14

But Andreescu looked to be in trouble early on.

Bouchard, of Westmount, Que., broke Andreescu in the match’s opening game and set the tone for the first set. Then Andreescu responded impressively with three breaks in second.

And she took her game to another level from there.

“She started really smacking the ball in the second set and just shows what a good player she is,” Bouchard said. “She has a lot of good power on her balls when she hits it well.”

When Andreescu ran into trouble midway through the third, double-faulting twice to give Bouchard a break and tie it 3-all, she responded by breaking right back, firing a forehand winner past Bouchard and screaming into the crowd.

Eugenie Bouchard, right, walks by compatriot Bianca Andreescu between games. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press )

Andreescu wasn’t sure exactly what triggered the turning point. Things just started to click.

“In the first set I was a bit nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Andreescu said. “But I shook those nerves and I tried to refocus for the second set.

“And I stuck to the right tactics. I made sure to put pressure right from the start of the point, and I think that’s what I really did today.”

The win was Andreescu’s second against Bouchard this year. She crushed her compatriot 6-2, 6-0 en route to a tournament title in Newport Beach, Calif., in their only other career meeting.

She will face Daria Kasatkina in second round Wednesday afternoon. Kasatkina advanced by upsetting No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber on Monday night.

‘Special feeling’

The 27th-ranked Andreescu had a rapid rise up the rankings earlier this year after a great start to the season, highlighted by her title at a big tournament in Indian Wells, Calif.

But Andreescu had played just one match since March because of the shoulder injury, which she said wasn’t bothering her on Tuesday.

“I haven’t felt this strong in a while,” she said.

Bouchard, a former world No. 5, has slipped to No. 112 in the rankings after winning just two matches at the WTA Tour level this year. She was given a wild card into the Rogers Cup, a tournament that she’s historically not done well in.

Bouchard, a former world No. 5., has slipped to No. 112 in the rankings after winning just two matches at the WTA Tour level this year. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

The 25-year-old Bouchard has advanced past the second round just twice in nine main-draw appearances at the WTA Premier 5 event. Her best result was a third-round appearance in Montreal in 2016.

But Bouchard said she gained a measure of confidence by taking Tuesday’s match to three sets.

“She’s a great player, so to battle with her till 6-4 in the third gives me confidence and just motivates me to work even harder,” Bouchard said.

Andreescu, who’s had the luxury of staying in her own house and eating home-cooked meals this week, said competing so close to where she grew up added to the victory.

“One of the best feelings, really,” she said. “To be able to play in front of my home crowd is always a special feeling. I’ve had many memories here.

“I played two years ago on that court, so I had a bit of experience of what to expect, but today was crazier than usual because I was playing a Canadian too.”

Auger-Aliassime outlasts Pospisil

Felix Auger-Aliassime has dreamed of walking onto centre court at the Rogers Cup in his hometown of Montreal.

His singles debut at the tournament very nearly turned into an nightmare.

The rising Canadian tennis star got all he could handle from countryman Vasek Pospisil in Tuesday’s first round before securing a dramatic 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3) victory.

Auger-Aliassime looked nervous at times, but eventually got the job done in front of an adoring crowd at IGA Stadium to advance at the $ 5.7-million US ATP Tour Masters 1000 series event.

Ranked 21st in the world to match a career-high, Auger-Aliassime was in complete control early, but Pospisil — 207th overall and working his way into form after a long injury absence — battled in a back-and-forth second set before the Vancouver product ultimately grabbed a hard-fought tiebreak on centre court to even the match.

The partisan crowd urging him on, Auger-Aliassime fired a huge backhand passing shot with Pospisil serving to go up 4-2, pumping his fist in celebration. The teen then pushed ahead 6-3 and sealed it when Pospisil sent a shot long.

Watch Auger-Aliassime defeat one Canadian to draw another in the 2nd round:

Felix Auger-Aliassime won 6-2. 6-7, 7-6, advancing to play another fellow Canadian, Milos Raonic, in the second round of the Rogers Cup. 1:32

The Canadians shook hands and patted each other on the shoulder at the net after a match that lasted two hours 33 minutes — much longer than most observers expected.

After doing a couple of TV interviews, Auger-Aliassime was joined on court by former Montreal Expos pitcher Claude Raymond for some tennis baseball. Montreal’s renovated Rogers Cup venue is the former Jarry Park Stadium, the team’s home from 1969 to 1976.

With the 82-year-old Raymond pitching from roughly where the mound would have been located and Auger-Aliassime sporting an Expos jersey, the youngster hit some balls into the crowd to lightheartedly cap what had been a tense afternoon.

Recent surge

Auger-Aliassime will now take on 19th-ranked Milos Raonic in another all-Canadian tilt in the second round. The 28-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., defeated France’s Lucas Pouille on Monday.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont. — a 20-year-old ranked 32nd — also won his first-round match Monday and will meet No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria next.

Set to turn 19 on Thursday, Auger-Aliassime came into the afternoon showdown with Pospisil having already won 28 matches this season, including a 12-4 record in his past four tournaments.

Auger-Aliassime, who started 2019 ranked 106th with just six tour-level victories to his name, has reached three ATP finals in the past six months, but is still looking for that first title.

Felix Auger-Aliassime reacts after winning the first set against fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil during first-round play at the Rogers Cup on Tuesday in Montreal. He went on to a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3) victory. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

He’s hoping that will come in Montreal.

In other early action Tuesday, 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over qualifier Bradley Klahn of the United States. Seeded 14th in Montreal, Cilic made the quarter-finals at last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal of Spain.

Eyes on 2017 Rogers Cup champ

Hard-hitting American John Isner, the No. 12 seed, also moved on with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) win over Australia’s Jordan Thompson.

In the evening session, Britain’s Kyle Edmund picked up a rain-delayed 6-3, 6-4 victory over Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who won last week in Washington. 

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the third seed and 2017 Rogers Cup champion in Montreal, beat Britain’s Cameron Norrie 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Nadal, the world No. 2 and top seed at this edition of the tournament, is the clear favourite with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer skipping the event.

After getting a bye, the Spaniard opens Wednesday in the second round against qualifier Daniel Evans of Britain.

Long road back

The Spaniard is expected to open his tournament Wednesday in the second round.

Pospisil is attempting to rediscover his form after spending eight months on the sidelines with a serious back injury. He reached the semifinals in Montreal in 2013, where he lost to Raonic. Auger-Aliassime, who had just turned 13 at the time, said Monday he remembers the match well.

Auger-Aliassime entered Tuesday with a 2-0 record against Pospisil — the last of three Canadian wild-card entries to be bounced in the first round.

He beat Pospisil in straight sets at Indian Wells last year and again in the first round at Wimbledon in July, winning 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in a match that lasted nearly three hours.

The pair played doubles together for the first time Monday, falling to French duo of Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin in straight sets.

Venus Williams eliminated in Toronto

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has made an early exit at the Rogers Cup.

The 39-year-old American lost 6-4, 6-2 to Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first match on centre court at the Aviva Centre on Tuesday.

Venus Williams reacts during her first-round match against Carla Suarez Navarro on Tuesday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Suarez Navarro, ranked 26th in the world, posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over the seven-time Grand Slam champion. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Suarez Navarro, ranked 26th in the world, snapped a five-match losing streak against the 56th-ranked Williams.

“She was just extra sharp,” Williams said of her opponent. “I played a lot of great points but just didn’t put enough in a row. You know, play two great points and then some points not as well.

“And she just really played sharp off every shot.”

Williams has now lost four matches in a row overall, including a first-rounder at Wimbledon against 15-year-old American Cori Gauff.

Suarez Navarro will face No. 16 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in the second round. Kontaveit beat former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova of Russia in a three-setter on Monday.

Also Tuesday, former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Camila Giorgi of Italy. Azarenka won back-to-back Australian Opens in 2012 and ’13.

World No. 1 Barty upset by Kenin

Ashleigh Barty of Australia is in danger of losing her world No. 1 ranking after falling 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to American Sofia Kenin in second-round play Tuesday at the Rogers Cup.

Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, was broken six times over the match, which lasted one hour 58 minutes.

Current world No. 2 Naomi Osaka of Japan would overtake Barty for the top ranking by winning her first match on Wednesday. The 21-year-old opens her Rogers Cup against Germany’s Tatjana Maria.

“I don’t have much say for the rest of the week,” said Barty, who added she didn’t know who was in position to overtake her in the standings. “I came here and tried to do my best and, you know, it wasn’t enough today … Whoever it is, if they play well enough and, they haven’t given up points or whatever it is, they deserve to take the ranking.”

Barty had beaten the 29th-ranked Kenin three times this year. But the 20-year-old got the better of the Aussie on centre court at Aviva Centre to earn the fourth top-10 win of her career.

Watch Barty fall in an upset loss to Kenin:

Sofia Kenin defeated the Australian 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in Toronto on Tuesday. 1:01

Fernandez loses again, in doubles

Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep lost their first-round doubles match 1-6, 6-3, 10-5 to Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke on one of the smaller courts at Aviva Centre Tuesday afternoon.

Fernandez had lost her main-draw singles debut Monday and was partnering with Halep for the first time.

“For me it was great to play with a very young player, and she played really well today,” the No. 4-ranked Halep said.

The 26-year-old Halep said she chose Fernandez in part because the Laval, Que., native had won the French Open girls title this year, something Halep had done herself 10 years ago.

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