Tennis·ROGERS CUP

Felix Auger-Aliassime to battle fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil

Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime will open his first Rogers Cup in his hometown when he faces fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil in a Wimbledon rematch.

Top-ranked Canuck Milos Raonic faces American Taylor Fritz in 1st round

Montreal native Felix Auger-Aliassime, right, will be a heavy favourite when he faces fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver in the first round of the Rogers Cup on Monday. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

After more than two months without a win, Denis Shapovalov says he desperately needed to take a break in order to find his game.

With the relentlessness of professional tennis taking its toll, Shapovalov skipped the Citi Open in Washington earlier this week to clear his head and spend time with friends and family.

Looking to snap a five-match winless run, the Canadian makes his return to the court at next week's Rogers Cup in Montreal — the scene of his fairy-tale run and shocking upset over Rafael Nadal in 2017.

Ranked No. 31 in the world, Shapovalov will face 38th-ranked Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the first round. The draw for Canada's annual ATP Tour event was held Friday at IGA Stadium.

"It was important for me to look at the last couple of months to see what was wrong," said Shapovalov after the draw. "I feel like my tennis game has been there. But I've been missing something else, something from inside. For me, it was the passion for the sport. It's normal... you're playing so many weeks out of the year, you're travelling so much. Sometimes it gets too much.

Shapo's downhill ride

"As soon as I did that, a couple of weeks later, I wanted to get back on the court. That passion was back really quickly. I'm in a good place right now. I feel like I'm ready to continue and keep playing tournaments."

It's been downhill ride for Shapovalov since two promising tournaments in March.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native made it to the fourth round of Indian Wells, eventually losing to Poland's Hubert Hurkacz. The following week at the Miami Open, Shapovalov reached the semifinal where he was eliminated by Roger Federer.

Since then, the 20-year-old has lost nine of his last 11 matches. He has failed to make it past the first round in four straight tournaments, including Wimbledon in July. His last victory was on May 22.

Shapovalov is hoping the Rogers Cup in Montreal, where he established himself as a serious competitor back in 2017, can help him return to form. Shapovalov became a household name that year when he eliminated four top players, including Nadal. He lost to eventual tournament winner Alexander Zverev.

The match against Nadal was a three-set come-from-behind thriller in front of a packed house under the stars on centre court. The young Canadian, 18 at the time, won the final set in a tiebreak.

"I occasionally go back to that video, that kind of moment in my life, when I need a bit of inspiration, motivation, self-belief," said Shapovalov, who was a career-high No. 20 after Miami. "Just to tell yourself that you can play at that level, you can beat these guys. And to see the way I was. I was so fearless, so confident, going up against a beast like Rafa.

No place like home

"This is where my whole career started off. The whole vibe around the city, around the tournament feel amazing. I'm getting recognized on the streets here. It makes me feel good and warm and at home."

Shapovalov is one of six Canadians in the main draw at this year's Rogers Cup.

Top-ranked Canadian Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., (No. 20) will face American Taylor Fritz (No. 28) for the first time in his career. If Raonic wins, he'll play sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.

There's an all-Canadian clash with Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked 22nd, going up against Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil in a Wimbledon rematch. Pospisil, who got a wild card into the Rogers Cup, is now ranked 207th in the world.

"The bad side is that a Canadian is going to lose," said Rogers Cup tournament director Eugene Lapierre. "The good side is that one is going to win. If I'm in Felix's shoes, this is a playable match. Compared to playing against a big seed. And I'm sure Vasek will be thinking exactly the same thing.

"Felix has the benefit of having two wins. He's beaten him on hard court and on grass. Vasek has nothing to lose."

Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., who also has a wild-card entry, faces world No. 19 Gael Monfils of France in the opening round.

Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont., another wild-card recipient, will face a qualifier. The winner of that match will play Italy's Fabio Fognini (No. 9) in the second round.

Other first-round highlights include the 10th meeting between Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka (No. 21) and Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov (No. 57), while 35th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany faces 2014 Rogers Cup winner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France (No. 70).

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