NEW YORK – The Canadians went out early at this year's US Open, the most disappointing Grand Slam in quite some time on the singles side.
But the next generation is here for the juniors events and so far, so good.
Top prospect Félix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 6 seed in the boys' singles, had a challenge Wednesday against Australian Alexei Popyrin but came through 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and moved into the third round of singles.
On the girls' side, No. 7 seed Bianca Andreescu dismissed American Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-3 and she, too, is in the third round.
Auger-Aliassime and partner Ben Sigouin also advanced in the doubles with a 6-2, 7-6 (1) win over Orlando Luz and Gabriel Decamps of Brazil, while Andreescu and British partner Katie Swan did the same, beating Irina Siemers of Germany and Daria Kuczer of Poland 7-6 (4), 6-0.
So both doubles teams are in the quarter-finals, in draws where many of the seeded teams are already out.
For Auger-Aliassime, who came out a flat and struggled on a windy day against a big server, it was a good test.
"There was bit of nervousness at the beginning. I wasn’t playing the say I wanted to, I wasn’t serving the way I wanted to. There was a little bit of wind, I had trouble with my timing. He’s a good server, too, so not easy to get a rhythm," Auger-Aliassime said.
Popyrin is a rangy player who gave Auger-Aliassime's good friend Denis Shapovalov (the reigning junior Wimbledon champion who is not playing this event) everything he could handle when he pushed him to 13-11 in the third set this spring at the junior French Open. He served bombs for the first half of the match, but couldn't quite keep up the percentages. Popyrin's first-serve percentage in the third set was just 41 percent and despite all of the velocity, Auger-Aliassime's success rate with his own quality first delivery was much higher.
It was just a matter of settling down.
"You have to say to yourself that maybe today isn't the day I played the best, but it's the day I'll be the toughest mentally," he said. "That’s what I did, and I’m happy to have won."
For Andreescu, this year's tournament already is a major upgrade over 2015 when she came in to her first junior US Open banged up after playing a lot of tennis the previous week at the warmup event outside Montreal (winning the singles and reaching the doubles final), and went out in the first round. She then withdrew from the doubles.
The kid who was always the youngest is now 16. And funnily enough, her victims in the first two rounds were younger than she. First-round opponent Caty McNally, who twisted her ankle and had to retire early in the first set, is just 14. Wednesday, opponent Baptiste is also 14 and was playing in only her second top-level junior event ever (the first was two weeks ago at her home club in Maryland).
"Ha, yes, last year was amazing. That’s the thing. I never played girls younger than me, so I didn’t have much pressure. The 2001s are coming. They’re starting to come and beating everyone," Andreescu said, laughing. "I’ve actually never played much younger girls before. So I try not to put pressure on myself; I just go out and play and don’t focus on what’s on the other side."
Thursday will prove a bigger challenge for both, as they will face opponents they lost to the last time they played them.
Auger-Aliassime will play Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, a Spaniard he lost to in three tough sets last week at the Montreal tuneup event. Andreescu will play Usue Arconada, a diminutive Argentina-born American who is nearly two years older and defeated her 6-2, 6-2 in the third round at WImbledon in July. Arconada also defeated Andreescu's countrywoman Françoise Abanda at the WTA Tour women's event in Washington, D.C. a few weeks later.
Andreescu had been through six-month injury layoff for a stress fracture in her foot at this year's Wimbledon when she played Arconada. She had returned to action only the week before at the warmup event at Roehampton and figures to be far more match tough this time around.