Genie Bouchard (surprise) might be Canada’s best French Open hope


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2 Canadians are left in the French Open — just not the ones we figured

Canada had six singles players in the Grand Slam event, and the strength appeared to be on the men’s side. Even with Milos Raonic opting out, Canada was still pretty loaded with No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime, along with unseeded Vasek Pospisil (ranked 76th in the world) and Steven Diez (181st). The only women’s entries were 100th-ranked teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez, who had one career Slam match win to her credit, and 168th Genie Bouchard, who hadn’t won one since early 2019.

But — surprise! — Bouchard and Fernandez are the only two still alive. Bouchard reached the third round yesterday, and Fernandez joined her today with a three-set victory over 47th-ranked Polona Hercog. Meanwhile, Shapovalov, who was the last Canadian man left, dropped a five-set, five-hour marathon to 101st-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena. Read more about today’s results here.

Bouchard’s next match is Friday at 5 a.m. ET. Her opponent is Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, who’s ranked 54th in the world and has reached at least the third round in all three Grand Slams this year.

If Bouchard wins, it’ll be her first trip to the fourth round of a Slam since the 2015 U.S. Open. She had to withdraw from that match after slipping in the locker room and hitting her head. Bouchard sued the tournament organizers, and a settlement was reached before the trial was completed.

The locker-room fall coincided with Bouchard’s fall from grace. She had finished the 2014 season ranked fifth in the world after a magical run that saw her reach the Wimbledon final, the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens and the fourth round of the U.S. Open. By the end of 2015, she was down to 48th. She closed the 2019 season 224th.

Bouchard, who’s now 26, has clawed back up to 168th (and climbing) with some solid clay-court play over the last few weeks. Before the French Open, she made the final of a low-stakes tournament in Istanbul, where she benefited from the world’s best players either being busy at the U.S. Open or sitting out.

Fernandez, 18, is hoping to trace her fellow Quebecer’s steps up the world rankings. This is her first season as a full-fledged pro. She qualified for her first Slam at the Australian Open in January, and picked up her first Slam win at the U.S. Open last month. In order to reach the fourth round in her French Open debut, she’ll have to beat No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova. The 30-year-old Czech was ranked second in the world as recently as January 2019. She’s won Wimbledon twice and has banked more than $32 million US in prize money. Their match is Saturday.

WATCH | Leylah Annie Fernandez’s French Open journey continues:

The 18-year-old from Laval, Que., beat world No. 47 Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the third round of the French Open. 3:10

Well, that didn’t last long

The Toronto Blue Jays’ surprising return to the post-season ended yesterday after just two games. Ace Hyun-Jin Ryu got roughed up in an 8-2 loss that gave the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays a sweep of the best-of-three first-round series.

The ending was definitely a bummer, but this was a fun season for Jays fans. The team kept its chin up after getting kicked to a minor-league park in Buffalo, and took advantage of a shortened season and a generous new playoff structure to earn a surprising playoff berth — its first in four years.

Despite yesterday’s struggles, Ryu looks like a legit ace and rookie pitcher Nate Pearson showed flashes of brilliance (when he was healthy). Young shortstop Bo Bichette seems like the real deal (at least at the plate). Vladimir Guerrero Jr., still hasn’t broken out, but his power numbers improved a bit from his rookie year and he finished the regular season strong. So maybe he can solve those ground-ball woes for next year. And Toronto’s two best hitters this year — outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez — are still early in their primes and under team control for next season. Hernandez is arbitration-eligible (good timing by him) but Gurriel is signed for three more years at team-friendly salaries.

So there’s a lot to look forward to, especially if baseball decides to keep its expanded playoff format. And, hey, just be glad you’re not a Twins fan. Minnesota got swept by Houston yesterday and has now lost an incredible 18 (!) consecutive playoff games.

Quickly…

The NFL postponed the Titans-Steelers game for this week. After several members of Tennessee’s team tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, the NFL initially planned to just push back Sunday’s showdown between the 3-0 clubs to Monday or Tuesday. But two more positive tests today brought the Titans’ total to 11, including five players, prompting the league to call off the game. It’ll be played later this season. Week 7 looks like the best option because the Titans are scheduled for a bye while both the Steelers and their opponent that week, Baltimore, have byes the following week. Read more about the Titans’ outbreak and the postponed game here.

The Miami Heat are in trouble. When you’re as big an underdog as Miami is in its NBA Finals matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, you need pretty much everything to go right to pull off the upset. But pretty much everything went wrong last night. The Heat got blown out 116-98 in the series opener, and that score (lopsided as it is) even flatters them thanks to some garbage-time scoring. L.A.’s two-star system worked to perfection. Anthony Davis dominated on both ends of the floor and finished with a game-high 34 points along with nine rebounds and five assists, while LeBron James (25/13/9) nearly put up a triple-double. Their gravity created a lot of open looks for the supporting cast, which knocked down its share of shots. Oh, and it (somehow) gets worse for the Heat. Two of their best players, Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, both left the game with injuries and are looking doubtful for Game 2. Another Miami star, Jimmy Butler, was slowed by an apparent ankle injury. Not to overreact to one game, but this is shaping up to be a short series. Read more about the Heat’s devastating Game 1 loss here.

Canada Artistic Swimming closed its national-team training centre in Montreal after athletes complained of abuse and harassment. Artistic swimming is the new name for synchronized swimming. Radio-Canada reported that the training centre is closed as an external firm investigates allegations made in a series of emails. According to the report, some athletes complained they heard offensive comments made by a coach about Black, Muslim and LGBTQ people. Another coach who is part of the organization told Radio Canada that wasn’t the only incident, and that there’s a “culture of fear and compliance” at Canada Artistic Swimming. Read more here.

And finally…

15 for fighting. That’s what the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will start penalizing players who drop the gloves under new rules passed yesterday. Anyone involved in a fight gets hit with the standard five-minute major, plus a 10-minute misconduct. Instigators get an extra two minutes. Frequent fighters will also be targeted. A player’s third fight of the season lands him an automatic three-game suspension, and he’ll get another game for every additional scrap after that. The new rules go into effect when the regular season starts tonight.

Isabelle Charest, who’s the minister for sports in Quebec, had called for the QMJHL to ban fighting. Meanwhile, the league is asking for a $20-million government bailout to help it through the pandemic. But commissioner Gilles Courteau insisted the new rules weren’t a condition for receiving money from the government. Read more about the QMJHL’s crackdown on fighting here.

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