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Joannie Rochette performs in the women's short program Friday at the Canadian figure skating championships in Saskatoon. ((Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press))

Joannie Rochette will have to stage a comeback if she's to win a fifth consecutive Canadian women's figure skating title.

An uneven opening performance Friday afternoon at the nationals in Saskatoon left Rochette in second place after the short program.

Skating to Summertime, the 23-year-old from Ile-Dupas, Que., fell on an attempted triple Lutz and turned a planned triple Axel into a single. A triple flip-triple toe loop combination that she appeared to land was downgraded by the judges to a triple-double.

"Of course it's disappointing because I was trying to do better than this," Rochette told CBC Sports. "I'm glad that I tried the triple-triple, so that's something positive."

Rochette received a score of 53.58, putting her behind Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., who celebrated her 21st birthday by winning the short program with a score of 55.16.

Amélie Lacoste of Delson, Que., was third at 53.55.

Celebrating her 21st birthday on Friday, Phaneuf put together her best short program of the season.

"I'm very happy about my performance and this is a great gift for me," said Phaneuf. "When I went on the ice I was very confident so I knew it was going to be a good skate. [This performance] means that my training and hard work is paying [off]."

By her own admission, Phaneuf had a subpar Grand Prix year and struggled through most of the elements in her skating. But the Quebec native said she's more focused than at any other point this season.

"When I went on the ice I was very confident so I knew it was going to be a good skate," she said.

The women's free skate is set for Saturday afternoon (CBCSports.ca, Bold, 12 p.m. ET).

Patrick Chan of Toronto will begin defence of his men's singles title, while reigning world championship bronze medallists Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison will be the favourites to win the pairs competition. Defending Canadian champions Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay were forced to withdraw, as Langlois isn't fully recovered from surgery she had after suffering a serious ankle injury suffered last summer.

Earlier Friday, defending ice dance champions Tessa Virtue of London Ont., and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., widened their lead by winning the original dance portion. They'll try to finish the job in Saturday's free dance (CBCSports.ca, Bold, 8 p.m. ET).