Canadian tennis stars Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov to face off in Madrid

MADRID — Young Canadian tennis stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will square off for the second time at the tour level in the opening round of the Mutua Madrid Open.

The longtime friends ended up in the same bracket in Saturday’s draw for the ATP Masters 1000 clay-court event.

It was not a favourable draw for the Canadians as the winner will face No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, who gets a first-round bye, in the second round. Nadal, of Spain, is considered the best clay-court player in the world.

The main draw starts Sunday. The Auger-Aliassime-Shapovalov meeting in Madrid comes four years after they led Canada to the Junior Davis Cup title in the same city.

The 20-year-old Shapovalov, of Richmond Hill, Ont., is ranked 20th in the world, 10 spots ahead of the 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime of Montreal.

The first tour-level meeting between the two was a memorable first-round match at last year’s U.S. Open, with Auger-Aliassime retiring after falling behind 7-5, 5-7, 4-1 on a muggy day in New York.

Auger-Aliassime had to be visited by medical staff during the match and said afterward his heart was racing. The players embraced after Auger-Aliassime made his decision to retire, with Shapovalov consoling him as they walked off the court.

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are off to slow starts in the European clay-court season after both reached the semifinals in March at the Miami Open, a Masters 1000 hard-court event. Shapovalov has lost his past two matches, while Auger-Aliassime has dropped two of three.

Earlier this year, Auger-Aliassime rocketed up the rankings thanks in large part to some strong results in South American clay-court events, highlighted by a runner-up showing at the Rio Open.

Shapovalov made his big breakthrough in 2017 when he stayed at Auger-Aliassime’s house in Montreal during a run to the Roger Cup semifinals, which included a major upset of Nadal in the round of 16.

Milos Raonic and Bianca Andreescu, Canada’s top-ranked singles players on the men’s and women’s sides, will not play in the Madrid Open because of injuries.

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