Tennis

Canadians Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov to meet in 1st round of U.S. Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime will take on fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the U.S. Open for the second year in a row.

Canada's Bianca Andreescu to face American 17-year-old wild-card Katie Volynets

Canadians Denis Shapovalov, left, and Felix Auger-Aliassime met at the U.S. Open in 201. Auger-Aliassime was forced to retire because of heat exhaustion. ( Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)

Felix Auger-Aliassime didn't have much time to savour his first career appearance at the U.S. Open.

Overcome with heart palpitations during his first-round match last year against fellow Canadian and good friend Denis Shapovalov, the Montreal teenager had his main-draw debut at a Grand Slam end abruptly when he was forced to retire in the third set.

While things are much different for Auger-Aliassime now — he's ranked No. 19 in the world, nearly 20 spots higher than Shapovalov — he still looks back on that match frequently.

"Even though I wasn't able to finish it, it was still a great memory," Auger-Aliassime said Thursday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. "That's a dream I had since I was a kid to play in the U.S. Open, and my family was there to witness it.

"So in the end I have great memories from it."

WATCH: Auger-Aliassime-Shapovalov share emotional U.S. Open moment:

The Canadians shared a moment at the net after Felix Auger-Aliassime had to retire from his first Grand Slam main draw event. 1:33

The two will get a rematch of that emotional night at Arthur Ashe Stadium with Thursday's draw revealing another all-Canadian first-round clash.

He's not worried about his heart condition getting in the way this time though, after having off-season surgery to correct his symptoms.

"It sounds scary but it's a pretty common procedure," Auger-Aliassime said nonchalantly. "There's a lot of people that have this kind of problem ... I was actually back really quickly, in a few days I had recovered."

Auger-Aliassime began the year ranked No. 108 on the ATP standings, but soared up to his career-high No. 19 this week.

That quick rise through the rankings — helped by a semifinals appearance at the Masters 1000 Miami tournament in March, and a runner-up finish at the ATP 500 Rio Open in February — has surprised even him.

"I think if you had told me last year I would be in the top 20, I wouldn't have believed you," said Auger-Aliassime, who was ranked 117th at last year's U.S. Open and needed to get through three rounds of qualifying just to make the main draw.

"My goal heading into the season was to be top 50 before the end of the year, but I think making that final in Brazil at the start of the season really gave me a lot of confidence and I just felt like I had the ability to beat anybody."

Auger-Aliassime already has a win against Shapovalov this year — he beat the 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., in the first round of the Masters 1000 in Madrid — to even their career head-to-head record at 1-1.

Andreescu the Canadian headliner

For all his success this season, Auger-Aliassime isn't even the most accomplished Canadian star on this year's tennis scene. That distinction belongs to Mississauga, Ont., teen and world No. 15 Bianca Andreescu, who has two WTA titles this season, including the Rogers Cup championship in Toronto earlier this month.

While Auger-Aliassime couldn't watch all of her Rogers Cup matches — he was competing through the third round of the men's event in Montreal — he called her championship run impressive.

"What she's been doing is incredible, it's beyond incredible, I don't even have a word for it," Auger-Aliassime said about Andreescu, who will face American 17-year-old wild-card Katie Volynets in the first round. "It's inspiring for Canadian tennis."

Andreescu is one of two Canadian women in the main draw in New York next week. Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., will face 12th-seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the first round.

On the men's side, 21st-seed Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., will face Chile's Nicolas Jarry, Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont., will meet France's Benoit Paire, and Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil will take on ninth-seed Karen Khachanov of Russia.

Auger-Aliassime said it's hard to think of himself as the highest-ranked Canadian men's player on the ATP tour currently. But it's a distinction that he cherishes.

"For me that means a lot," he said. "I've been watching Milos and Vasek for so long and they're such great players so for me it's an honour to be the top-ranked Canadian."

Meanwhile, Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., was knocked out in the second round of men's qualifying. He lost 7-5, 7-6 (0) to Sumit Nagal of India on Thursday.

Toronto's Steven Diez has advanced to the final round of qualifying on Friday. He'll face No. 3 qualifying seed Soonwoo Kwon of Korea.

Serena, Sharapova to square off

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will finally meet in the U.S. Open, and they'll do it in their very first match.

A long-awaited Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal showdown could come only in the final.

Williams and Sharapova, past U.S. Open champions and two of the biggest stars in women's tennis, were scheduled for an opening-round matchup when the draws were conducted Thursday for the final major of the year.

Williams and Sharapova have met in the finals of the other three majors and the 2012 Olympics but have never played each other in the U.S. Open. Williams owns a 19-2 record in their WTA Tour matchups and has won 18 in a row, but that lopsided number shouldn't do much to dampen the hype around what will be the marquee match of the opening round at Flushing Meadows, which starts Monday.

Williams will begin another bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. Sharapova isn't the same player she was when she won the 2006 U.S. Open championship — or beat Williams two years earlier in the final at Wimbledon — but remains one of the most popular players among fans in New York.

The men's draw sent No. 3 seed Federer into the top half, meaning he could play top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. They met in a classic final at Wimbledon, where Djokovic won in a fifth-set tiebreaker.

Federer and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal have never played each other in New York and could do so this year only if both make the final.

Djokovic might have to beat both to repeat as U.S. Open champion — and could face a tough obstacle just to get there with a potential quarterfinal against No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev upset Djokovic in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open en route to the title in what was his third straight week reaching a final.

With files from The Associated Press

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