NEW YORK — The last of the Canadians at this year’s U.S. Open was eliminated on Wednesday, when Leylah Annie Fernandez and American partner Jack Sock bowed out in the mixed doubles quarterfinals.
Earlier on Wednesday, No. 5 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos were beaten by 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 by No. 3 seeds Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova in the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles.
Canada had five players in the junior singles draws, but only 16-year-old Victoria Mboko of Toronto remains alive. She defeated Iva Jovic of the U.S. 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals.
The sparse Canadian presence late in the tournament is a sharp contrast to a year ago when Fernandez reached the women’s singles final, Félix Auger-Aliassime the men’s singles semifinal and Dabrowski the women’s doubles semifinal.
Both Fernandez and Auger-Aliassime were ousted in the second round of singles this year.
It’s been more than a week since Fernandez was eliminated — and yet, she was still in the tournament until Wednesday.
“Not going to lie, it was a little strange. It was a little hard because I do want to be in the singles. I do want to play on the big stage there. But at the same time I'm still in the tournament; just in a different category,” Fernandez said after the Australian team of John Peers and Storm Sanders, the No. 4 seeds, defeated them 7-5, 7-6 (3).
Fernandez and Sock were up 5-2 and serving for the second set to push the match into a tiebreak. Fernandez then had her serve broken, the same happened to Sock after and it unravelled quickly from there.
“Today just wasn't my day. There were so many opportunities that we had but in those key moments, we weren't as solid as the other rounds or as our opponents today,” Fernandez said. “It happens. I can't beat myself up too much about it. But I think it was a great experience for me — especially it (being) my first time playing mixed doubles. I had a lot of fun.”
Fernandez and Sock eliminated Dabrowski and Australian partner Max Purcell in the second round of mixed doubles earlier in the week with a raucous crowd that was very one-sided in its support of the Fernandez-Sock pairing.
For Dabrowski, there were a few bright moments during this year’s tournament, but not enough of them.
“We had a tough win the other day, a very emotional, long match in really tough conditions,” Dabrowski said of her 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 three-round win with Olmos over No. 9 women’s doubles seeds Asia Muhammad and Ena Shibahara Sunday. “I think overall, a quarterfinal result is good. It's not where I want to be. But it's better than having lost that one, I would say.”
Wednesday’s defeat in women’s doubles was the toughest loss to handle.
It took place at Louis Armstrong Stadium, where a year ago, Dabrowski’s partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil suffered a gruesome knee injury in the semifinals during the first-set tiebreak against Americans Coco Gauff and Caty McNally. Stefani underwent surgery and hasn’t yet returned.
Dabrowski felt it as early as the warmup.
“Those are things you can't wipe from your mind. They're literally in your bones. Because it's a trigger," she said. "A traumatic event happened. And I know it didn't happen to me, but she's one of my best friends.
"Even though I haven't felt her pain physically, I've definitely been there along the journey of the incident happening, the aftermath, being a supportive friend the entire year and hopefully at some point helping with the comeback.”
Stefani was on hand in New York this week, and her comeback may begin soon.
Dabrowski will keep playing with Olmos as they currently lead the doubles race to qualify for the WTA year-end finals in Fort Worth, Texas in late October.
Before their next tournament in Tokyo in a few weeks, Dabrowski will stop in Chennai, India. There, she’ll pair up with Stefani for the Brazilian’s first tournament back from injury.
As for Fernandez, she hasn’t entered any of the tournaments scattered around Europe and Asia in the WTA Tour’s scattershot schedule, hastily assembled as the women’s usual fall swing in China was cancelled for the third straight season.
The next planned tournament is in San Diego, Calif., the week of Oct. 10, followed by a WTA 1000 tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico the following week to close out the season.
But first, she will go home and turn the page on the disappointment of returning to the scene of her 2021 glory, and losing in the second round. And maybe celebrate her 20th birthday, which came on Tuesday.
“Not even close. Not even close. That's the thing,” Fernandez said, when asked if she had even begun processing it. “I've been just so focused on about the next match. But I know I'm going take the next few days to think about it, to process it. And then just get back to work.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2022.
Stephanie Myles, The Canadian Press