All eyes on French Open Tennis

It is time for the first of two Grand Slams in Europe to get underway. The French Open at Roland Garros will not only witness, as usual, fierce and absorbing contests for supremacy in singles, doubles and mixed doubles in all sections, including men, women, junior boys and junior girls.

A total of six Canadian  and eight Indian players (two of them representing the US) will be competing in the event. For Canada, limelight will be on  Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal), Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill), Bianca Andreescu (Mississauga), Laylah Annie Fernandez (Laval), and Rebecca Marino (Vancouver)  who all are set to compete in singles.

Besides, Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa) will be participating in doubles, joining Fernandez and Marino who have both entered the doubles draw with their respective partners.

The flagbearer of Indian women’s tennis after Sania Mirza, the now 30 year old Ankita Raina has been enjoying a good season so far. After a disappointing 2022, when she fell to 301 in the WTA Rankings, Raina has boosted her ranking back up to 218, getting closer to her highest ranking of 160. This will be Raina’s first Grand Slam appearance since the 2022 Australian Open.

Just this week, the Gujarati-Kashmiri had a confidence boosting week at the WTA 125K clay court event in Florence, Italy, beating 122nd ranked Elina Avanesyan, and running 78th ranked Sara Errani close in a three-setter.

The 43 year old Rohan Bopanna has been having a terrific season so far, with one Masters title, one Masters and one ATP 500 final, one ATP 250 title. He also made the mixed doubles final of the Australian Open partnering good friend Sania Mirza. He and his Aussie partner Matt Ebden seem to be combining well and will look to go deep in the draw.

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After having made their Grand Slam debut as a pair at the Australian Open this year, Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni, the duo will play their second Grand Slam together. Bhambri had retired from singles at the start of this year to focus on transitioning into full time doubles. The pair had a breakthrough season last year, and would like to graduate to the next level by winning a few matches (or more) on the Parisian clay courts.

The highest-ranked Canadian for this year’s edition of the French Open will be Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime, who is currently sitting at No. 10 in the ATP rankings.  Auger-Aliassime will be playing  on Thursday in the quarter-finals of the Lyon Open as he looks to start a winning streak ahead of his fourth Roland-Garros appearance. In 2022, the Montrealer reached the fourth round of the event before losing to eventual winner and 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller. This year, playing in the top quarter, he has been drawn against Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the first round and would likely have to defeat No. 5- seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the fourth round to go one further than his best result on the Parisian clay courts.

Shapovalov, the 26th seed, will be competing out of the same quarter as Auger-Aliassime. In his opening round match, he will face American Brandon Nakashima, whom he’s faced just once before, losing in four sets at Wimbledon in 2022. For Shapovalov to face compatriot Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals, he would have to get by the likes of world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and No. 14-seed Cameron Norrie of the United Kingdom. Shapovalov’s best result at the French Open was reaching the second round in 2018 and 2020.

On the women’s side, Andreescu gears up for her fourth appearance at the French Open. Currently sitting at No. 41 in the WTA rankings, the Mississauga native enters the event as the top-ranked Canadian woman in singles and will play out of the top quarter. Her path to the finals won’t be easy, as she’s drawn two-time Grand Slam champion and French Open semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka in the first round.

Azarenka, who is seeded No. 18, and Andreescu have yet to face each other. Other top names in Andreescu’s quarter are Poland’s Iga Swiatek (No. 1), American Coco Gauff (No. 6), and Veronika Kudermetova (No. 11). Fernandez, who plays some of her best tennis on clay courts, will look to build off her quarter-final appearance in 2022 heading into this year’s event. Placed in the third quarter, Fernandez, world No. 51, will take on No. 21-seed Magda Linette of Poland in the opening round. Interestingly, Fernandez’s debut at the French Open was against Linette, as the Canadian took the match in three sets by a score of 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Other possible matchups for the 20-year-old include Greece’s Maria Sakkari (No. 8), Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (No. 12), and American Jessica Pegula (No. 3). Rounding out the Canadian contingent in the singles event is Marino, who will be playing in her third Roland Garros main draw. She reached the third round of the French Open back in 2011 and will need to defeat the likes of No. 14-seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and Ekaterina Alexandrova, 23rd seed, to earn her best result at the event. But first, she’ll need to defeat Diana Schnaider, world No. 107, as they are set to face off in the opening round.

In doubles, Dabrowski joins forces with Brazilian Luisa Stefani, Fernandez reunites with American Taylor Townsend, and Marino partners with Lin Zhu of China. The doubles draw will be made in due course. Additionally, on the wheelchair tennis circuit, Rob Shaw will be making his French Open debut. The world No. 6 in the quad division will be playing in two clay court tournaments to prep for Roland-Garros, which is set to take place from June 5 to 11.

Indian entries are : Women’s Singles Qualifying: Ankita Raina
Men’s Doubles: Rohan Bopanna/Matthew Ebden, Yuki Bhambri/Saketh Myneni, Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury
Junior Boys Singles: Yuvan Nandal
Junior Boys Singles Qualifying: Aryan Shah
Junior Girls Singles Qualifying: Anya Murthy

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