A tennis player hits a ballPhoto: AP Photo/Paul White
Photo: AP Photo/Paul White

Team Canada at the 2021 French Open

The French Open is back! This year, it’s in its usual springtime spot on the calendar after the 2020 tournament didn’t get going until late September because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, it’s even more exciting as it is the last tournament that will count towards a Tokyo 2020 qualification. Keep track of how Canadian players are doing here.

When the ATP and WTA rankings are updated on Monday, June 14, those will determine 56 of the 64 entries into each of the Olympic singles tournaments, with a maximum of four per country per gender. The rankings will also decide 31 of the 32 teams in the men’s and women’s Olympic doubles tournaments, where there can be a maximum of two teams per country per gender.

So let’s take a look at the Canadians who will be in action at Roland Garros when the main draw begins on Sunday, May 30.

Milos Raonic 

Editor’s Note: Raonic announced on May 30 that he was withdrawing from the French Open.

ATP Singles Ranking: 18

Milos Raonic will be playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2017. In the fall, he withdrew just before the draw was announced for the 2020 tournament. Raonic had his best result at the French Open when he reached the quarterfinals in 2014.

He was most recently in action at the Miami Open at the end of March, where he was the last Canadian man standing in the Masters 1000 hardcourt event, reaching the Round of 16.

Raonic, seeded at No, 17, will meet Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro for the first time in his career in the opening round of the French Open. Other possible match-ups for the Canadian include Pablo Carreno Busta, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev.

Félix Auger-Aliassime

ATP Singles Ranking: 21
ATP Doubles Ranking: 81

This will be just the second main draw appearance for Félix Auger-Aliassime at the French Open following his debut in 2020, where he fell in the first round. He defeated fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov en route to the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open clay court warmup in late April. He started the year by being the runner-up at the Murray River Open in Melbourne just ahead of the Australian Open.

Auger-Aliassime was ousted in the first round of the Lyon Open, which was the last tournament before the FR Open.

Auger-Aliassime is seeded at No. 20 in Paris this year. In his first match, he’ll take on Andreas Seppi of Italy. If he advances, the 20-year-old could face Roger Federer in the fourth round, Novak Djokovic in the quarters and Rafael Nadal in the semis.

Canada’s top ranked player Denis Shapovalov decided to withdraw from Roland-Garros after reaching the Geneva Open final last weekend, citing a shoulder injury. Two-time Olympian Vasek Pospisil also made the decision to skip this year’s edition to focus on the upcoming grass-court season.

No Canadian men entered in the qualifying draw were able to clinch a spot in the main draw. Brayden Schnur and Peter Polansky were outed in the first round, while Steven Diez’s campaign was halted in the second round.

Bianca Andreescu 

WTA Singles Ranking: 7

It has been a challenging year for Bianca Andreescu. She returned from a long layoff at the Australian Open in February, her first tournament since late fall 2019 because of injuries and the pandemic. In early April, she made it to the final round of the Miami Open, but her highly anticipated showdown against World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty came to an early end when Andreescu was forced to retire with an ankle injury.

Later in April, she announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19, which took her out of the Madrid Open. She then withdrew from the Italian Open out of concern that Italian government regulations would put her back into isolation despite a negative test.

After seven weeks off the courts, Andreescu made a return to winning ways, posting two wins at the Strasbourg Open. However, the 2019 US Open champion decided to pull out of the tournament after her second round win to nurse a small abdominal injury sustained during her second round match.

This is Andreescu’s second main draw appearance at the French Open. She was forced to withdraw in the second round in 2019.

In her 2021 debut, she’ll face Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Other potential matchups for the No. 6 seed include WTA stars Belinda Bencic and Naomi Osaka.

Leylah Fernandez

WTA Singles Ranking: 69
WTA Doubles Ranking: 157

In spite of the pandemic, it has been a remarkable year for Leylah Fernandez. Following her first French Open in the fall, where she made it to the third round, she has won her first WTA title at the WTA 250 event in Monterrey, Mexico in March. In April, the 2019 Jr. French Open champion was a key player in Canada’s 4-0 victory over Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup Playoffs as she won both of her singles matches to get Canada into the Qualifiers for 2022. Her efforts earned the attention of fans, who voted her the winner of the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award.

In the first round of the French Open, Fernandez will take on Anastasia Potapova of Russia. Fernandez is in the third quarter of the draw with the likes of Aryna Sabalenka and tennis legend Serena Williams.

Fernandez is also entered in the Women’s Doubles draw with a familiar Canadian face. More on that just below.

Gaby Dabrowski

WTA Doubles Ranking: 11

Gaby Dabrowski has been in the women’s doubles main draw at every French Open since 2014. She has twice been a finalist in mixed doubles in 2018 and 2019. Her 2021 highlights include a finals appearance at the Madrid Open in early May where she partnered with Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands on the clay court.

Fans will be getting an all Canadian pairing in the women’s doubles draw at Roland-Garros as Dabrowski will be teaming up with Tennis Canada’s rising star Leylah Fernandez. The duo played together at last week’s Serbia Ladies Open where they reached the Round of 16.

Sharon Fichman 

WTA Doubles Ranking: 32

Sharon Fichman jumped up 19 spots in the WTA doubles rankings after an unexpected victory at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in mid-May where she and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico were entered as alternates and came out as champions on the clay court.

Fichman and Olmos teamed up earlier this season. Before winning the Italian Open with Fichman, Olmos had won the 2020 Abierto Mexicano Telcel and the 2019 Nottingham Open doubles titles with her former partner American Desirae Krawczyk.

However, neither Canadian player on the women’s qualifying roster managed to secure a berth in the singles main draw. Carol Zhao was defeated in the third round, while Rebecca Marino stopped in the first round of qualifying.

COVID-19 Precautionary Measures 

It will be a different scene than the 2020 tournament which allowed just 1000 people onto the grounds of Roland Garros. The 2021 French Open will be France’s first sporting event to welcome back spectators this spring. The tournament’s organizers are imposing strict measures on all participants, staff, and attendees to ensure the safety and security of everyone present. You can consult the full list of safety measures here, but here are the highlights:

  • Night sessions will be closed to spectators until June 8 due to curfew restrictions.
  • From May 30 to June 8, the venue will welcome 5,388 spectators per day with each of the six public premises allowing up to 35% total capacity, for a maximum of 1,000 spectators for each match. 
  • From June 9 onwards, the number of spectators allowed inside the venue will be gradually increased to 13,146 total. Each of the six public premises will allow up to 65% capacity to a maximum of 5000 spectators (such as for the main court Philippe-Chatrier), all of whom must have a “health pass.”
  • All individuals present must wear a mask at all time.
  • The cleaning and disinfecting of the various sites will be stepped up.
  • Players and their entourage will have to adhere to specific health and safety protocol before and throughout the whole duration of the tournament

The French Open main draws kick off on Sunday, May 30 and you can follow the action daily on TSN.