STARNBERG, March 5, 2019 (Sponsored)
Canada, the second biggest country in the world by area – 10 million square kilometres – has failed to produce a single Singles Major winner in tennis. However, might those days be close to an end? Just under three years ago Canadian Number One Milos Raonic stood on the brink of history, but instead had to settle for runner up in his 2016 Wimbledon showdown, where he lost on Centre Court to Britain’s Andy Murray. At the end of that season, Raonic was the only man representing the Maple Leaf in the Top 100 rankings with an impressive position of third, which was ahead of Rafael Nadal, for example.
Since then, Raonic has dropped 11 places to 14th, yet Canadian hopes have never been higher. Raonic is still in his pomp and at just 28 years old has plenty of gas in the tank to reach another major final but it’s perhaps the emergence of two youngsters who have proven the real catalyst for hope and, as a minimum, they are concrete evidence that the system and process put in place by Tennis Canada is working as the nation now have three players ranked in the Top 100.
Raonic, as previously mentioned, remains the highest ranked at number 14 but 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov isn’t far behind, sitting in 25th. The other player completing the trio, Felix Auger-Aliassime, is even younger at just 18 years and currently occupies 58th spot following some big moves, particularly after a strong showing in the recent Rio Open where he was beaten on the final furlong by Laslo Djere of Serbia.
So, of the three players who is most likely to deliver in a major tournament? It’s a tough question to answer, as they all have something going for them. Raonic whilst still in what would be defined as his prime years has the benefit of a decade worth of experience to support his skills, which if on song are good enough to give any player in the world a run for their money. Unfortunately, Raonic is widely regarded as having missed his golden opportunity back on the grass of Wimbledon, but he can always be seen as a potential dark horse in any competition.
Teenagers Shapovalov and FAA, as Auger-Aliassime is often called, have an unknown quantity about them. They both came through the ranks at a similar time, although Shapovalov made the step up sooner, and both have massive potential to mix it up with the biggest names in tennis in the months and, certainly, years to come. There is a rawness about their game, sometimes a lack of consistency and perhaps sometimes, particularly with FAA, an eagerness to rush in for the kill, rather than ‘playing the game’; these things result in unforced errors and, as you know, too many of them and you’ll struggle to string a series of wins together.
The pair are only teenagers though and it’s easy to forget as they play with such textbook technique; it’s no surprise that pundits and coaches alike are singing their praises at this early stage of their career. The consistency will come with age, as will the patience – it’s all experience and the mental side is perhaps one of the last to develop; after all, they say you learn more in defeat than you do in victory so it might take a little while for this side of their game to mature.
Winning major tournaments relies on many things, a little luck being one of them, so whilst you can’t guarantee a win for one of these three it is a safe bet to back Canada to have a strong presence in the Top 100 for a while to come. On top of that, don’t be surprised to see one of them write their names into the sporting history books as the first Canadian to lift a major.