News from the National Bank Challenger, July 9-17 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.
Auger-Aliassime Competes In Winnipeg
Felix Auger-Aliassime, a big draw for tennis fans in Winnipeg this week, has already made history in the National Bank Challenger series.
In Drummondville in March of 2015, Auger-Aliassime at age 14 became the youngest player to ever qualify for the main draw of an ATP Challenger tournament. Then in July of last year at the National Bank Challenger in Granby, he became the youngest player to ever win a main draw Challenger match. Auger-Aliassime was eventually beaten in the quarterfinals in Granby, losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka (the No. 2 seed this week in Winnipeg).
The 15-year-old Auger-Aliassime plays Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia in a first-round match Wednesday.
“All of the staff has put in good work,” Auger-Aliassime said after his first practice session at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. “Everything is there for the players – good organization – so I hope to have a good week here.”
Auger-Aliassime, the No. 5 ranked junior boys’ player in the world, reached the final of the French Open junior boy’s singles in June before being edged 1-6, 6-3, 8-6 by France’s Geoffrey Blancaneaux.
“I played one of my best finals,” said Auger-Aliassime, who trains at the National Training Centre in Montreal. “Even though I lost, it was a really great match. I’ve learned a lot from that. I’ll do everything to go back in this position where I have the chance to win the championship.”
At Wimbledon, Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov lost the junior boys’ doubles final 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Kenneth Raisma/Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Canadian duo of Auger-Aliassime/ Shapovalov won the 2015 US Open junior boys’ doubles title.
“He’s a great partner for me,” Auger-Aliassime said of Shapovalov, the 2016 Wimbledon junior boys’ singles champion. “We have a good energy and have a good bond together.”
Auger-Aliassime, who started playing tennis at age 5, was born in Montreal and raised in Quebec City. In December of 2015 he became the youngest U18 champion at the prestigious Eddie Herr International Junior Championships in Florida, saving three match points to beat Alex De Minaur of Australia in the final 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(3). Auger-Aliassime reached his first professional final in May at the Spain F12 Futures in Lleida.
“Reaching my first final in the pros is a great achievement,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Hopefully I can put myself back in this positon and win a pro-level tournament.”
Zhao Wins Opener
Canadian Carol Zhao, the No. 4 seed in women’s singles, beat Emily Webley-Smith of Great Britain 6-0, 6-3 on Tuesday in a first-round match on Stadium Court.
“It was really tricky conditions, very windy for both of us, but I thought I played pretty solid,” Zhao said.
Zhao was born in China and moved to Richmond Hill, Ontario at age six. She teamed up with Gabriella Dabrowski to win gold for Canada in women’s doubles at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
As a sophomore at Stanford, Zhao was the 2015 NCAA women’s singles runner-up. Her Cardinal women’s team captured the 2016 NCCA Championships title, beating Oklahoma State 4-3 in the final. Zhao has decided to forego her senior year at Stanford for now to play professionally.
“I really enjoyed Stanford and everything about it,” said Zhao, 21. “It was definitely tough (the decision) but for me I’ve accomplished everything collegiately on a tennis level that I wanted to. I think it was the right time to do something else.”
Bester Wins Battle Of Canadians
Philip Bester beat fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur 6-1, 6-3 on Stadium Court Tuesday to set up a second-round meeting with top seed Bjorn Fratangelo of the United States. Men’s No. 4 seed Vincent Millot of France was edged 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 by Australia’s Benjamin Mitchell.
In women’s singles play Tuesday at the National Bank Challenger, Francesca Di Lorenzo beat Canada’s Marie-Alexandre Leduc 6-1, 6-0 and will now face fellow American Jessica Failla in the second round. Failla got by No. 1 seed Julia Glushko 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Stadium Court Monday.