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How Colorado’s patience, intangibles challenged a Tampa offence with no answer – Sportsnet.ca

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Over the years of their recent post-season success, which has included a pair of Stanley Cups and appearances in five of the last six Conference Finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning morphed from Team Speed & Skill, to Team Intangibles. They’ve gone from the high-flying offensive team that put others on their heels, to the positionally-sound defensive juggernaut that basically said to their opponents: “See if you can beat us, because we sure as hell won’t beat ourselves.”

And yet again, beat themselves they did not.

Beleaguered as a team can be, Tampa Bay laid back and stayed patient, even when it seemed like their opponent was taking it to them. They’ve had the ultimate trust in Andrei Vasilevskiy, as they should, and it forced opponents to get frustrated, open up, and give them just that extra chance or two that has allowed the Lightning to score and prevail. Like Tiger Woods in his prime, sometimes the size of their well-earned reputation forced others to beat themselves.

Still, at some point you have to be able to create some offence to win games, and as they got more injured, that became a bigger challenge. They didn’t have Brayden Point as they did in Round 1, where a Bolts team on the ropes saw him go directly to the Maple Leafs crease and finish a rebound goal to keep their Cup hopes alive. That obviously hurt them.

Beyond that, though, they didn’t have the depth scoring come through as it has in past years, and they simply couldn’t dial it up on offence and remain as defensively stout as they knew they needed to be against an offensively-gifted Colorado Avalanche team. This time, that was the Avs’ reputation coming into play. Each of Alex Killorn (19:16 TOI per game), Anthony Cirelli (also 19:16), and Brandon Hagel (14:21) played in all 23 playoff games for the Lightning, and they combined for just five goals. Killorn, who scored 25 in the regular season (and had eight in 19 playoff games last year), was blanked with zero. So many players had to turn their attention solely to the little details of defending and positional play, and they excelled at it. But it came at a cost.

I reference Tampa didn’t have that same depth offence as they had in the past, because we all remember the Cup-winning Bolts teams getting huge goals from their third line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, but it’s worth noting the crucial difference: Colorado wasn’t Dallas and they damn sure weren’t Montreal, not even close. The depth guys on the Lightning this year were faced with a much different chore than Coleman-Gourde-Goodrow. The Avalanche were extremely well-coached throughout this playoff run, and they recognized Tampa Bay’s weakness: they didn’t have another offensive gear to kick it into, so they leaned harder on that struggle.

The Colorado Avalanche all but stole the game plan from Tampa, which was to play smart and positional and choke the life out their opponent, all while saying “The burden of creating offence is on YOU, and you’re going to have to go through every last one of us.”

“Offensively-gifted” or not, the Avs’ scoring was stunted down the stretch of the series, but it was a concession they were willing to make knowing Tampa Bay’s inability to create. Here’s the most telling stat of the series and why I leave the Final fixated on positional patience. If the Bolts were sitting back and waiting for the Avs to get desperate, open up and make mistakes in this series, here’s what they got off the rush:

A hot bowl of nothing.

Over six Stanley Cup Final games the Avalanche had more rush chances than the Bolts by an average of six per game (per Sportlogiq). Six extra rush chances, which in the end was the difference, wasn’t it?

The Stanley Cup game winner comes off a rush where Artturi Lehkonen makes an unbelievable off-hand one-time shot that finds the top corner, which maybe you’d call a bit “lucky” because who knows how many times out of 10 he could place that puck there again. But in very hockey fashion, it’s not luck, because they created enough chances to “get lucky” like that. As it always goes in hockey’s big picture, making your own luck is a reason to love teams like the Avs who create chances in volume.

There’s been much said about the Lightning’s injuries and their inability to be at their best in this Final, but let’s not pretend the Avs were at max capacity. Andre Burakovsky was hurt, Valeri Nichushkin was hurt, and hell, Nazem Kadri had his trainer tie his skates and played in an oven mitt (and scored an OT winner). Sammy Girard was too hurt to get in a game in the Final.

Even with their injuries, the Avalanche played with a maturity the Lightning’s other opponents could not. Colorado got the better of the Bolts to open the series, then Tampa went into full lockdown mode, playing for low scores and hoping to lean on their experience and again, patience. In Games 3, 4, 5, and 6 the Avs scored just 2, 3 (with overtime), 2, and 2 goals. But instead of starting to cheat and stretch and open up to generate more against a goalie that could’ve frustrated the heck out of them, they recognized that for Tampa to win, they’d have to score too.

The Lightning are getting deserved love as “Team Intangibles” this year, and they certainly played great and blocked shots and proved themselves to be warriors. But don’t let the Avs’ demonstration of those same things get lost.

That’s coaching, that’s leadership, that’s playing (and sometimes losing) enough big games to see that forcing plays and taking chances can bury you in the post-season. You have to trust that it will come, you have to trust the plan, and when offensively talented teams get to that point, they’re almost impossible to beat.

This Final was two teams that were “almost impossible to beat,” and as a result, the series was delightful to watch. The Avalanche used all their tough experiences of the years past to give their opponent jack squat in the biggest moments of the season, and they finished the playoffs losing only four times the whole way through.

The Lightning were worthy foes, for sure, but the Avalanche are deserving champions.

What a Stanley Cup Final.

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Borje Salming gets support from Maple Leafs alum after ALS diagnosis – Toronto Sun

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“You admire his physique, his fitness … and then you get a call like this,” Darryl Sittler said

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He is considered the ageless Leaf, at 71 often seen pursuing the outdoor activities of a man more than half his age.

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“We get together every March or April and it looks like he can still play,” marvelled Darryl Sittler. “You admire his physique, his fitness … and then you get a call like this.”

It was a few weeks ago that Borje Salming shared the stunning news with his very close-knit kin from the 1970s Leafs. Mysterious issues the Hall of Fame defenceman was experiencing throughout his body sent him to a specialist at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

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“I have received news that has shaken my family and me. The signs that indicated that something was wrong in my body turned out to be the disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig´s disease,” Salming stated through the Leafs on Wednesday. “In an instant, everything changed. I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced.

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“I also recognize that there is no cure, but there are numerous worldwide trials going on and there will be a cure one day. In the meantime, there are treatments available to slow the progression and my family and I will remain positive.”

Borje Salming (right) celebrates with Darryl Sittler after Sittler scored five goals in an 8-5 1976 Maple Leafs’ playoff win over Philly.
Borje Salming (right) celebrates with Darryl Sittler after Sittler scored five goals in an 8-5 1976 Maple Leafs’ playoff win over Philly.

Salming last played for the Leafs in 1989, but was never separated from his life-long friends in the Maple Leaf Gardens era, led by Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams.

“Borje is a wonderful friend and great teammate,” Sittler said. “I wish I was talking about anything else today. We’ve been in contact; me, Borje, guys such as Lanny and Tiger and we all knew today (breaking the news to the rest of the world) would be the toughest and devastating for him and us.”

“We’ve been talking. If you can imagine it was you or I who was being told this … he was very emotional.”

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Yet one Leaf that Salming played ever so briefly with, Mark Kirton, was the first whom Sittler thought of sharing the news, to be a great ally in the coming fight.

Kirton was also diagnosed with ALS, in 2018 after first experiencing symptoms three years earlier. Though now wheelchair bound, the 64-year-old helped Salming absorb the shock with his immediate family and helped guide him to an understanding of the slow-progression drugs available to urgently start administering.

“I told him, ‘King, the name of the game is survival until they find a cure’,” Kirton said. “You have a great support system here and with your family

Former NHLer Mark Kirton has ALS and still is running his real estate business in Oakville.
Former NHLer Mark Kirton has ALS and still is running his real estate business in Oakville. Photo by Submitted /Toronto Sun

Kirton, Sittler and the Leafs worked the past few days on crafting Wednesday’s release, simultaneously in Canada and Sweden, in which an upbeat-sounding Salming also asked for privacy.

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“Right now, I rest assured that I have my loving family around me and the best possible medical care. Please keep us in your prayers.”

Salming is a grandfather and when others in his circle aren’t posting about how robust he still is, he’s proudly highlighting the athletic tradition carried by a new generation of the clan.

A pioneer of European migration to the NHL along with teammate Inge Hammarstrom in 1973, Salming quickly became a Leafs favourite, one of the few bright spots in years the team rarely made it deep into the playoffs. He gained respect far and wide for withstanding punishment, from shot blocks to foes bent on beating him up as a perceived pacifist in a violent period in the sport.

Yet he played more than 1,000 games in Toronto and kept in such good shape that he was often compared to the 60-year-old Swede in government Participaction ads, in as good or better shape than younger Canadians. Salming survived many injuries, including a gruesome facial cut from a skate blade that required 200-plus stitches and just missed an eye.

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Borje Salming honoured as next statue on Legends row. The Toronto Maple Leafs vs The Pittsburgh Penguins at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday November 14, 2014. Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
Borje Salming honoured as next statue on Legends row. The Toronto Maple Leafs vs The Pittsburgh Penguins at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday November 14, 2014. Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

Two years ago, he did have a medical episode where he couldn’t breathe and was put in an ambulance, but that was chalked up to COVID-19 and he was released after one night.

Much like Kirton, who suddenly began experiencing twitching in his biceps while on holidays in the Bahamas, it was a rapid turn for the worst.

“The good news from a family perspective is he doesn’t have the genetic (familial ALS) which is 5% of cases,” Kirton said. “The most important thing now is he get all the available drugs as fast as possible at early onset.”

Patients with sporadic ALS, which Kirton and Salming are dealing with, are typically given a life span of two to five years on average, though the disease can affect people differently with longer survival rates. Kirton recalled how devastated he and his wife were to be told of his condition, but he has maintained a vow not to dim his mental positivity.

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Kirton meets regularly via Zoom calls with 25 to 30 ALS patients of all ages, as well as personal caregivers, forming ALS Action Canada to give those affected a stronger voice in pushing for approval of new treatments and funding.

In the meantime, Kirton sent his old friend an encouraging tweet Wednesday.

“I’ve reminded Borje he taught me the can opener move one day at practice to take out the centre going into the corner,” laughed Kirton. “He taught me well how to get away with it and now I told hium ‘don’t worry, we’ve got this, too’.”

Toronto Maple Leaf legend Borje Salming with his Legends Row statue outside Scotiabank Arena on September 12, 2015.
Toronto Maple Leaf legend Borje Salming with his Legends Row statue outside Scotiabank Arena on September 12, 2015. Photo by Dave Thomas /Toronto Sun

SALMING’S FULL STATEMENT

“I have received news that has shaken my family and me.

“The signs that indicated that something was wrong in my body turned out to be the disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In an instant, everything changed. I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced.

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“I also recognize that there is no cure but there are numerous worldwide trials going on and there will be a cure one day. In the meantime, there are treatments available to slow the progression and my family and I will remain positive.

“Since I started playing ice hockey as a little kid in Kiruna, and throughout my career, I have given it my all. And I will continue to do so.

“Right now, I rest assured that I have my loving family around me and the best possible medical care.

“I understand that there are many of you that would like to reach out, however I kindly ask you to respect our privacy in these trying times. Please keep us in your prayers. When the time is right and I understand more about my condition and future journey, I will reach out. So, until such a time, we kindly refrain from all contact.

“I hope you understand and respect our decision.”

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What do sponsorship, funding freezes, small crowds mean for World Juniors and Hockey Canada? – Sportsnet.ca

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It’s eerie, despite being a throwback to a different time.

The first thing many will notice walking into Rogers Place in Edmonton for the IIHF world juniors this week is how white the ice looks. That brightness is caused by a rarity in hockey circles: No ads on the sheet. Just lines.

This decided lack of corporate presence — on the boards, there are only ads for Swiss watchmaker Tissot and the IIHF app, with the rest of the space dotted by blue and green stylized maple leaves — is part of the fallout from the cloud hanging over the 2022 tournament, the real-world effects of partners Tim Hortons, Telus, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire pausing sponsorship for Hockey Canada in the wake of sexual assault allegations.

This visual is a stark reminder that we could be experiencing change on a grand scale. This tipping point in the history of Canada’s national game means the tournament could lose money for the first time in the country’s history, which will have a trickledown effect on the grassroots programs supported by Hockey Canada.

Adding to the wakeup call are the very small, and, in some cases, non-existent crowds. A pre-tournament game on Tuesday between Canada and Sweden, for example, was atypically closed to fans, pucks off glass and players calling for a pass in two languages the only sounds.

Game attendance figures from early in the tournament were not readily available, but reports on social media and from those in attendance indicated tiny crowds. For instance, a mere handful of fans had turned up for the 8 p.m. local face-off for Tuesday’s USA-Germany game.

Over the last two decades, average attendance when Canada has hosted the tournament has ranged from 6,600 to more than 14,000 per game. Anything outside North America typically draws between 2,000 and 7,000.

A source familiar with Hockey Canada’s operation told Sportsnet that owing to the tournament being rescheduled from its usual December and January dates to the summer, the organization “never expected big crowds.”

Still, the small turnout will have a significant impact on the revenue the tournament generates, which in turn conceivably could mean less money for the programs Hockey Canada supports, a concern expressed by the women’s national teams earlier this week.

Also looming is the question of potential refunds to sponsors who paid for banners and such for the first 2022 tournament, in December, and were given the option of applying that committed money to the rescheduled tournament in August. With the rescheduled tournament relatively ad-free, that could mean refunds are due to some corporate sponsors, meaning even less revenue from Hockey Canada’s most lucrative event.

“Good question,” the source said. “Answer probably still coming.”

The controversy surrounding Hockey Canada stemming from alleged sexual assaults involving players on two Canadian world junior teams is foremost in the minds of hockey fans these days, and that could be keeping fans away.

In addition, the summertime rescheduling forced by rising COVID-19 infections in December plus a variety of factors could be contributing to the diminished interest: This year’s tournament is missing several big-name players, including Shane Wright, Owen Power, Cole Perfetti, Kaiden Guhle and Juraj Slafkovsky. It is also absent entries from Russia and Belarus, which were banned by the IIHF for their countries’ roles in the attack on Ukraine.

Regardless of the reasons, the effects are real: When hosting the tournament, Hockey Canada relies on the world juniors for a significant portion of its annual revenue. And the majority of that, of course, goes toward funding its annual budget, which is estimated to be worth north of $100 million.

The source estimated the net revenue for Hockey Canada – after paying each participating team about $2 million for expenses and 10-15 per cent to the IIHF – is about $12 million to $15 million, with about one-third of that going to the Canadian Hockey League (ostensibly as compensation for the use of the league’s players) and about 20 to 25 per cent distributed to the 13 regional hockey associations across Canada. The remainder goes to operations for Hockey Canada.

As the source told Sportsnet, this confluence of factors could means this year’s world juniors will be looking at a loss, which would be unprecedented when the tournament is in Canada.

With the withdrawal or freezing of funds by the federal government — which make up roughly six per cent of the organization’s annual funding — and sponsors, Hockey Canada’s remaining major sources of funding come from minor hockey association fees, considered to be relatively insignificant, and TV rights fees.

“We recognize these World Junior Championships are going to look and feel different for fans for a few reasons: first, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this tournament to August; and second, there is understandable scrutiny from Canadians of Hockey Canada and the culture of hockey,” a Hockey Canada spokesperson said in a statement sent to Sportsnet.

“Our focus is ensuring the players who have trained for the past several months can compete on this important stage – and for the fans to enjoy a positive experience. At the same time, we will continue to work diligently to address toxic behaviours – both on and off the ice – that conflict with what Canadians expect hockey to be through the implementation of our Action Plan.”

The financial picture for Hockey Canada will continue to get more complicated after the tournament, especially as more hearings in Parliament are expected in September. But knowing revenue would take a hit because of the summertime rescheduling, the source said the IIHF previously awarded Hockey Canada the 2023 world juniors to help make amends for expected shortfalls.

The host city for that tournament? Halifax, the site of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the 2003 Canadian world junior team.

–with files from Sportsnet’s Emily Sadler

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Andreescu earns thrilling 1st-round win over Kasatkina at National Bank Open in Toronto – CBC Sports

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Bianca Andreescu feels as though she has found her fighting spirit after a tough, but thrilling 2 1/2 hour two-set victory on Tuesday.

The Mississauga, Ont., native defeated world No. 9 Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 in her opening round match at the National Bank Open.

“A win is a win no matter how you pull it off and today really showed me a lot about myself and how I can push through these things if I really want it,” Andreescu said.

“It just shows that fighting spirit that I still have in me. I want to continue building on that.”

WATCH l Andreescu advances to 2nd round:

Bianca Andreescu digs deep, wins opening round match at National Bank Open

8 hours ago

Duration 3:20

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu defeated Russian Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 Tuesday in Toronto at the National Bank Open.

The win didn’t come without difficulty though.

On a number of occasions, Andreescu was in discussion with her trainers and seemed to be breathing heavy at different points of the match.

But the 22-year-old insisted she felt much better post-match.

“I’m feeling much better. I felt really dizzy, I had no idea what it was,” she said. “Maybe something that I ate or all the stress leading up to the tournament, I have no idea. I’m super happy that I was able to clutch it out.”

Asked if she thought of retiring from the match, Andreescu was adamant about not wanting to.

“I did not want to at all. There was one moment where I was a bit afraid that I couldn’t [continue] but it’s not like I had that thought in my head where I wanted to quit. I really couldn’t today, something came upon me even though I was feeling like absolute crap,” she said.

“Especially during the tiebreaker, I hit a shot and I was seeing double almost. That was kind of the point where I didn’t feel the best. But the crowd, they really pushed me to continue.”

Bianca Andreescu returns a ball to Daria Kasatkina during their first-round match in Toronto on Tuesday. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Andreescu, who won the event in 2019 in Toronto, was sharp and active early, making comebacks within games she later won. She also went 3-for-3 on break points through the first five games.

Up 3-2, she mixed up her shots, using forehands, backhands and drop shots, making Kasatkina work. A Kasatkina error allowed Andreescu to have some breathing room with a 4-2 lead.

“Changing it up with my drop shot — I feel like I brought it out more today than (these) past four months,” Andreescu said. “I’m very happy with that.”

After Kasatkina eventually tied the set at 6-6, Andreescu scored six out the final eight points in the tiebreaker to win the set, punctuated by a powerful forehand. The set took 85 minutes to play.

In the second set, Andreescu jumped out to a strong start, outlasting Kasatkina through multiple lengthy exchanges as the Russian committed multiple errors, sending shots into the net.

Andreescu again began to mix it up between drop shots and forehands that Kasatkina struggled to return with accuracy at times, as the Canadian grabbed a 2-0 lead.

After Kasatkina took the next three sets, Andreescu followed with three straight wins of her own, finishing with a forehand winner that had her opponent visibly upset.

With the home crowd behind her, Andreescu went up 40-0 in the clinching game before committing two errors. She then used another drop shot that Kasatkina could not run down to close the match.

She immediately raised her hands as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Andreescu will play against Alize Cornet of France in the second round, a player she hasn’t defeated in two career outings.

Eyeing her revenge against Cornet, Andreescu feels more confident in her chances after beating Kasatkina.

“It definitely gives me confidence for the next match. Alize kind of plays like Daria a little bit in a way — more consistent and all that,” she said. “So having this match under my belt and going into tomorrow against Alize definitely gives me confidence.”

In women’s doubles, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez won her opening match alongside younger sister, Bianca Jolie. The duo topped Belgium’s Kirsen Flipkens and Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-1.

Shapovalov, Pospisil eliminated

An opening double-fault. Two wayward backhands. Another mistake on match ball.

Denis Shapovalov’s rain-suspended match was over shortly after it resumed Tuesday afternoon as he dropped a 7-5, 7-6 (4) decision to Australia’s Alex de Minaur at the National Bank Open men’s tournament in Montreal.

The players were in a tight battle a night earlier but rain forced a postponement with the tiebreaker tied at three. Shapovalov was hoping to force a decisive third set but instead was eliminated after just a few minutes on court.

“I haven’t had this exact experience before so it was tricky,” Shapovalov said.

WATCH | Shapovalov labours in straight-sets loss:

Denis Shapovalov’s struggles continue at National Bank Open

13 hours ago

Duration 0:38

Alex de Minaur of Australia won his rain-suspended opening match at the National Bank Open in Montreal, defeating Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., 7-5, 7-6(4). It’s Shapovalov’s ninth loss in his last 10 matches.

The result capped a tough day for the Canadians in the 56-player singles draw. Vasek Pospisil dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to American Tommy Paul and 15th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov posted a 6-4, 7-5 win over Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que.

That left sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal as the last Canadian remaining in singles play. He had a first-round bye and will likely play his opening match Wednesday.

Groans could be heard at last Friday’s draw ceremony when de Minaur’s name was called out as Shapovalov’s first opponent.

At No. 21, de Minaur is one spot ahead of Shapovalov in the world rankings. The five-time winner on the ATP Tour had also beaten the Canadian in both previous meetings at the pro level.

De Minaur wasn’t fazed by Shapovalov’s power game during the match and was able to handle the left-hander’s wide serves. Tremendous retrieving skills helped blunt the Canadian’s aggressiveness and led to some mistakes.

“I think I did a lot of good things yesterday, I was playing some great points,” Shapovalov said. “I felt like I was starting to get some momentum in the match. I thought I was dictating and playing some good-level tennis.”

Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., has recorded just one win since beating Rafael Nadal last May in Rome.

In men’s doubles, Shapovalov and Russian partner Karen Khachanov lost a tough three-match set in 86 minutes to Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-6.

Pospisil, meanwhile, had three break points in the final game of the opening set but was unable to convert. Paul went on to complete the victory in one hour 25 minutes.

“[It] just wasn’t one of my best matches for sure,” Pospisil said. “Tommy played his match. He didn’t play anything that was so exceptional that I couldn’t have given myself a better look. But yeah, wasn’t the best of matches. Had good moments, but not consistent.”

WATCH | Pospisil loses in straight sets: 

Vasek Pospisil ousted in National Bank Open 1st round

16 hours ago

Duration 2:15

Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C. lost to American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round of the National Bank Open in Montreal.

The native of Vernon, B.C., is entered in the doubles draw with Italy’s Jannik Sinner. Calgary native Cleeve Harper and Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont., are the other Canadians in the doubles field.

The start of Tuesday’s opening session was delayed about 90 minutes due to wet weather. Another rain delay forced a 20-minute pause in the afternoon.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who was victorious last week in Washington, beat Argentina’s Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-4 to set up an intriguing second-round matchup with top-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

Marin Cilic, the No. 13 seed, defeated fellow Croatian Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2. Other seeded players to advance were No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and No. 17 Gael Monfils of France.

The lone upset in afternoon play saw Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta surprise 11th-seeded Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2. 

British wild-card Andy Murray, who was ranked world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals for 41 straight weeks in 2016, couldn’t find that old magic against 10th-seeded Taylor Fritz of San Diego in the feature evening match.

Fritz made quick work of the 35-year-old Murray, winning 6-1, 6-3.

The US$6.57-million tournament continues through Sunday.

WATCH | Galarneau loses to Bulgaria’s Dimitrov:

Laval’s Alexis Galarneau falls in Masters 1000 debut at National Bank Open

14 hours ago

Duration 2:44

Making his Masters 1000 debut, Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., lost to Grigor Dmitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 7-5 in the opening round of the National Bank Open in Montreal.

Marino ousted

Canada’s Rebecca Marino lost 6-3, 6-7 (5), 4-6 to China’s Zheng Qinwen in her opening-round match on Tuesday.

The Vancouver native entered the tournament coming off a quarterfinal appearance at the Citi Open, where she fell to Daria Saville of Australia.

Marino, who made it into the WTA top 100 rankings for the first time since 2012 and is currently No. 96, got rolling early as she took the first set with relative ease.

WATCH | Marino bounced in 1st round: 

Rebecca Marino bounced in opening round of National Bank Open

16 hours ago

Duration 2:00

Despite claiming the first set, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino fell to China’s Qinwen Zheng 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the first round of the National Bank Open in Toronto.

Marino overcame a strong start from Zheng in the second set, but had trouble with unforced errors in the tiebreaker.

The Canadian went up 4-3 in the final set before losing the final three games.

Marino fired 12 aces to Zheng’s 10 and was a perfect 2 for 2 on break points in the loss.

The 19-year-old Zheng, ranked 51st, will next play fifth-ranked Ons Jabeur in the second round.

Fellow Canadian Carol Zhao also dropped her first match, 6-1, 6-3 to American Amanda Anisimova.

Osaka’s struggles continue

Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit in Toronto.

The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. Osaka was losing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said in a written statement. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

That was her first competition since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Another successful young star had an early exit Tuesday when ninth seed Toronto-born player Emma Raducanu of Great Britain lost 7-6 (0), 6-2 to Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Other women’s winners Tuesday included Shuai Zhang of China, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and Elise Mertens of Belgium.

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