Quarter-final Friday was not kind to the Canadians in the first week of the 2023 tennis season as both Denis Shapovalov and Leylah Annie Fernandez were defeated in the last eight of their respective 250-level events.
In Adelaide, Shapovalov put up a fight against top seed Novak Djokovic but was unable to find a way to score a first win over the 21-time major champion. Over in Auckland, Fernandez became Ysaline Bonaventure’s second Canadian victim in a row.
Shapovalov and Djokovic were meeting for the fourth time in Australia out of their previous eight clashes, with this being the third time they met in the first week of the season, and the previous matches down under had been their closest encounters.
But in the Adelaide quarter-finals, the Canadian was unable to take advantage of his opportunities and some streaky serving opened the door for Djokovic, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Serving well is always needed in order to defeat the Serbian and Shapovalov was not good enough on this day, putting just 53 percent of his first serves in play, only winning 41 percent of his second serve points and double faulting seven times. He also converted just one of his four break point chances.
Early on, it was the Canadian applying pressure and trying to give himself an early edge, holding a pair of break points on Djokovic’s serve in the opening game that required five deuces for the Serbian to hold. Shapovalov had another break opportunity at 2-2 but was again unable to convert.
As he often does, Djokovic turned things around after surviving a scare on serve. He pushed Shapovalov to deuce in the following game and then converted his first break point of the match in the eighth game when the Canadian sent a forehand long.
Djokovic took the early lead in the second set as he broke and moved ahead 3-1, but Shapovalov was able to recover, finally breaking through to level at 3-3.
However, there was no stopping Djokovic. The Serbian continued to attack his returns, holding a pair of break points in the following game before converting his fourth in the ninth game to set himself up to serve out the win.
With the defeat. Shapovalov falls to 0-8 in his career against Djokovic.
Fernandez stumped in Auckland
Across the Tasman sea, Leylah Annie Fernandez saw her red-hot start to the season come to a screeching halt as she was beaten in straight sets by Ysaline Bonaventure in the quarter-finals of Auckland.
It was a second win over a Canadian in a row for Bonaventure, who had beaten Rebecca Marino in the second round.
Fernandez came into the match having lost just three games in her first two matches, but like Shapovalov, failure to take advantage of her opportunities on return and struggles on second serve proved costly as she fell to the Belgian 6-4, 6-2.
Despite putting a high percentage of first serves in play, Fernandez’s second serve was still an issue as she won just 39 percent of those points. She faced eight break points in the match and only managed to save four. On return, she only converted one of her six opportunities.
Midway through the opening set, three consecutive breaks of serve ended with the Belgian ahead. Fernandez had a chance to break back again as Bonaventure served for the opening set but was unable to convert.
The Belgian then broke again to start the second set. Fernandez had multiple chances to reclaim the break but was unable to convert any of her three break points in Bonaventure’s next two service games. The Canadian also found herself working hard to hold her own serve as she faced break points in every service game of the second set.
After saving four break points to stay in the set in the third and fifth games, Fernandez finally cracked in the seventh game as Bonaventure took the decisive double break.
Bonaventure is a player to keep an eye on for Canadians, as she could be a member of Belgium’s Billie Jean King Cup team in April when they take on Canada in the qualifying round.
Shapovalov is expected to play in Auckland next week, while Fernandez is not currently entered in an event, meaning she will next take to the court at the Australian Open.