Monday Digest: Andreescu steps up Madrid return

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Never has a second-round result been so encouraging.

There were plenty of question marks ahead of Bianca Andreescu’s return to the WTA Tour last week, few players can take a long layoff and then play well immediately upon their return to competition.

Of course, great champions can do that. And Andreescu is a champion, after all.

Here’s what you need to know.

In case you missed it: Bianca makes a comeback in Stuttgart

After seven months away from the match, some rustiness from Andreescu would have been understandable as she made her return to the circuit at the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart.

However, the Canadian looked at home on the court, putting in a solid performance in her first tournament since October. She won her opening match in straight sets before facing world No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka in a thrilling second-round battle.

Sabalenka eventually managed to defeat Andreescu in three sets, but received all she could handle from the Canadian. Andreescu’s two good matches are a good sign for the 2019 US Open champion.

Not that the loss to Sabalenka was bad initially, but it was redeemed when the world No. 4 made it all the way to the final in Stuttgart, ending Anett Kontaveit’s indoor winning streak in quarter-final before beating the new world number 2 Paula Badosa in the semi-final.

In the end, Stuttgart ended how every major WTA Tour event has ended recently, with Iga Świątek dominating the final. The world No. 1 won her fourth tournament in a row in another blowout, losing less than five games for the seventh straight time in a final as she beat Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2.

It wasn’t all easy for the best player in the world, who dropped a set for the first time in over a month, ending her streak of 28 straight sets when Liudmila Samsonova won the opening set of their half -final in a deciding game. However, the Pole would rally to win the match and then claim the title, extending her winning streak to 23 matches.

At Barcelona, ​​Félix Auger-Aliassime has started to regain some form after a poor run in recent weeks, winning consecutive matches for the first time since February and reaching the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open.

After a tough first-round win over Carlos Taberner, Auger-Aliassime impressed with a solid win over Frances Tiafoe to reach the last eight. However, despite the first set, he was beaten in the quarter-finals by Diego Schwartzman.

Auger-Aliassime lost a spot in the standings due to Barcelona’s results, as in Stuttgart the event was won by a young gun who was on fire in 2022, Carlos Alcaraz, who beat Pablo Carreno Busta in a all-Spanish finale. .

In an amusing circularity, Alcaraz broke into the Top 10 by winning Barcelona, ​​17 years after the man whose name graces the event’s main court also broke into the Top 10 by winning the title in the Catalan capital. , the man who is also Alcaraz’s mentor, Rafael Nadal.

Monday marks the 17th anniversary of Nadal breaking into the Top 10 and he is yet to set an ATP Tour record by far.

Unlike Alcaraz, the home court was ultimately not fruitful for Novak Djokovic, whose dismal 2022 continued last week in Belgrade. The Serb struggled for most of the tournament, dropping the first set in every game he played.

The world No. 1 was able to fight in his first three matches to reach the final, but his home tournament ended in a thud when he was bagged in the third set of the final by Andrey Rublev, who won his third title. of 2022.

At the WTA event in Istanbul, Anastasia Potapova won her first career title at the WTA 250 event, defeating compatriot Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets in the final.

What to watch: Full Canadian slate in Madrid

The first WTA 1000 clay-court event of the season begins this week with the Mutua Madrid Open. Two Canadians received direct entry to the main draw: Leylah Annie Fernandez and Andreescu.

Both Canadians will make their main draw debuts in the Spanish capital. Fernandez took part in the qualifiers in 2021, while Andreescu never took part in the Madrid Open.

Gabriela Dabrowski and her partner Giuliana Olmos will be the third favorites in women’s doubles.

Nine of the WTA’s top 10 will compete in Madrid, led by the woman who has won every WTA 1000 event so far in 2022, world No. 1 Świątek. The 20-year-old is looking to become the first player, male or female, to win the first four 1000-level (or equivalent) events of the season.

Sabalenka is the defending champion. The draw will be announced on Tuesday.

FAA Top Seed in Portugal

Auger-Aliassime continues to try and regain his early season form this week as he leads the field at the Estoril Open. He is the No. 1 seed and is one of only two Top 20 players in the draw, along with his Barcelona conqueror, Schwartzman.

The Canadian has a first-round bye and could open against Taberner for the second week in a row if the Spaniard beats Lloyd Harris. He could have a potentially tricky quarter-final against eighth seed Sebastian Korda or former US Open champion Dominic Thiem, who continues his comeback this week in Estoril.

Monte-Carlo runner-up Alejandro Davidovich Fokina looms in Auger-Aliassime’s half and is a potential semi-final opponent, as is another of the Canadian’s opponents in Barcelona, ​​Tiafoe.

The other ATP Tour event this week takes place in Munich and features Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud.

Under the Radar: Mboko reaches his first final

The future of Canadian tennis is bright, but it’s not just thanks to young stars on the main circuits like Fernandez, Andreescu, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov.

If you don’t already know, 15-year-old Victoria Mboko is a name to watch as she continues to rack up big junior results. But the young Canadian took it a step further this week, reaching her first final on the ITF senior circuit at the W25 event in Monastir, Tunisia.

As a wildcard entering only his fifth senior event, Mboko started by winning his first two matches in straight sets to reach his first ITF quarter-final. From there, she won three straight sets to reach her first final.

In the final, she was beaten by top seed Lin Zhu of China, a player almost twice Mboko’s age, in three tight sets.

Steven Diez reached his first ATP Challenger quarter-final of 2022 last week in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He and Brayden Schnur are both competing in another Challenger event in Mexico this week, while Alexis Galarneau plays in Savannah, Georgia.

Katherine Sebov had another solid result last week, reaching the semi-finals of the ITF event in Nottingham.

You can follow the Canadiens in action each week here.

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