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It was a grind, but Félix Auger-Aliassime pulled through his opening match at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday afternoon to advance to the third round at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, California. To do so, the eighth-seeded Canadian defeated Spaniard Pablo Martinez 7-6(5), 6-4 in a close encounter.

Martinez got off to a quick start in the first set after a break of serve in the opening game. He held onto his advantage for much of the set despite facing 15 break points on his own serve. He didn’t overpower Auger-Aliassime, but played crafty points and moved forward at opportune times to take away time from his opponent. It seemed every one of his service games went the distance and Auger-Aliassime finally converted his 15th chance to break in the set to level the score at 5-5. The opening frame was ultimately decided in a tiebreak which was back and forth just like the previous 12 games were before the Montreal native pulled away at 4-4 thanks to some aggressive hitting and secured the lead after one hour, 35 minutes of play. 

The pace quickened in set two as both players held serve quickly and without much adversity until the ninth game when Auger-Aliassime tightened his grip on the win after his second break of serve in the contest and he wrapped up proceedings without any difficulty in the following game.

This is Auger-Aliassime’s first singles victory in the California desert since 2019 when he reached the third round thanks to wins over Cameron Norrie and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He had lost his opening match in the previous two editions of the tournament. In the third round on Monday, he’ll face the winner of the encounter between no. 27 seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina and American Jack Sock.

Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Leylah Annie Fernandez, seeded no. 30 in the WTA 1000 draw at Indian Wells, joined her compatriot and fellow Quebec native Auger-Aliassime in round three thanks an impressive 6-2, 6-4 triumph over American Emma Navarro.

The 20-year-old came flying out of the gate to take the opening set in convincing fashion despite struggling on serve with six double faults. Fernandez was error-prone at the outset in set two but managed to erase a 0-3 deficit to regain control of the match as Navarro had no answers for her relentless attack off the ground and it was smooth sailing for the Canadian from 3-3 towards a straight sets victory without too much of a fuss. 

With the win, Fernandez carries over the success she had in Indian Wells the last two years into 2023. She’s now reached the third round for the third straight time. In 2022, she advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to former BNP Paribas Open champion Paula Badosa of Spain. Fernandez now awaits the winner of the match between fifth-seeded Caroline Garcia of France and Dalma Galfi of Hungary.

Bianca Andreescu will look to make it a Canadian trifecta of Saturday wins when she goes up against American Peyton Stearns under the lights at Stadium 3 later tonight. Watch the match on TSN and RDS.

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