MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Félix Auger-Aliassime was the only one of the three Canadians in action Monday in the Miami Open qualifying to make it through to the final round.
And even the 18-year-old struggled at first, before rising to the task.
Auger-Aliassime dropped the first set against Italian veteran Luca Vanni in a flurry of unforced errors. But then, he ran away with it in the third set of a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
His next opponent – the man standing in the way of him making the Miami Open main draw for the first time – also is no pushover.
Auger-Aliassime will play 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi, who lives in Sarasota, Fla. and trains at the IMG Academy. Auger-Aliassime spent the off-season preparing there. So he’ll have seen him, even if he might not have practiced against him.
Lorenzi is the fellow who’s basically out there on the courts half the day, every day.
Given the qualifying is not broadcast, we shot a few highlights of the match.
Bouchard struggles against nemesis Hibino
In 2018, Eugenie Bouchard faced 24-year-old Nao Hibino three times, all on hard court.
All three times – all within two months, at the Vancouver Challenger, in Hiroshima and in Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Hibino won. Bouchard managed just one set in those three defeats.
The Canadian managed a set on Monday. But after winning the first set, turning the page on a love set and running out to a 3-1 lead, Bouchard won just one more game in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 loss.
Hibino has has proven to be a brutal matchup for her, a consistent player with some power who runs down everything. Hibino has nearly the same winning percentage as Bouchard through her career (57.9% versus 58.8 per cent for Bouchard) based on approximately 12 per cent fewer matches at the WTA level).
Bouchard didn’t look great in practice against Magda Linette of Poland, but that’s not unusual for her. She was coughing occasionally, but it didn’t seem – from the outside – like anything big. Certainly nothing like she experienced at Indian Wells in that valiant effort against Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.
Against Hibino, everything sort of started well, then unraveled. Again, the cumulative pressure of having the ball come back, of trying to finish points off too quickly. It was fairly similar to her other losses to Hibino – plus, at this point, the Japanese has to be in Bouchard’s head, understandably.
Bad luck and timing
The 25-year-old Canadian was going to be the next player into the Miami Open draw. But that withdrawal she needed never came – at least, not in time for the qualifying.
In fact, there were only two withdrawals from the original entry list: Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova.
It’s possible there might well be some before the main-draw matches begin. But that’s too late for Bouchard.
Most things weren’t going well Monday. After she decided to take a bathroom break following the bagel second set, Bouchard headed off in the wrong direction – only to be told the facilities were at the opposite side of the court (first day in a new site, everyone’s trying to figure things out).
During that bathroom break, coach Michael Joyce exited the court and spent most of the time talking with Bouchard’s mother, Julie Leclair.
Bouchard isn’t playing doubles in Miami. And she has entered the International-level Monterrey WTA event the week of April 1 and the same-level tournament Bogota the following week.
The Canadian Fed Cup team’s World Group I playoff tie against the Czech Republic will be held in Prostejov April 20-21.
Another tough one for Polansky
Meanwhile, Richmond Hill, Ont.’s Peter Polansky had a tough one against No. 4 qualifying seed Mackenzie McDonald, losing 7-6 (4), 7-5 in a match that featured just three break points.
Mackenzie had one break point in the second set, and converted it. And that was basically the match on a day Polansky played well enough, for the most part, to win it.
It was a long road back to the locker rooms inside the stadium, for sure.