With injuries, career detours and mysterious losses, it’s a little hard to remember, but there was a time when everything seemed possible in Canadian tennis.
Every time tennis fans looked up, it seemed like another extraordinarily talented or gritty Canadian had reached a Grand Slam final. Bianca Andreescu even won one at the 2019 US Open when she was still in her teens, beating Serena Williams and playing in a style that is as creative as her tennis aesthetic.
In recent times, many players have suffered hip knees (Dennis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime), stress fractures (Leila Fernandes) and emotional distress (Miros Raonic and Andreescu), with Fernandes It is not even possible to participate in the national team in 2021. Open finals may feel like a long time ago.
And then there was a day like Wednesday at Wimbledon, when the rain finally stopped enough to hold outdoor tennis, proving why Shapovalov and Raonic were in such a frenzy in the first place. Both came from set downs to win in four sets, giving Shapovalov a chance to remember what it means to be a junior in a country known primarily for ice sports (hockey and curling) and spectator intensity. Gave. Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard nearly finish the Wimbledon grass.
After beating Radu Albot (Moldova) 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in the match that started, Shapovalov said, “It’s possible in my eyes and Felix’s eyes as Canadians. It gave me a kind of real belief,” he said. on monday. “And for generations after Felix, Bianca, and me, I have been convinced. I believe there are more.”
Apparently, Canadians were nostalgic for the string of champions Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg produced in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s by the not-so-temperate Sweden.
Shapovalov and Raonic defeated Austrian Dennis Novak 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-6 on Monday at their first Grand Slam tournament in two and a half years. . 1. I’ll try again on Thursday. Both players will play in the second round, as will Fernandez. Andreescu will also participate, and will finally face Anna Bondar (Hungary) in the first round.
Auger-Aliassime, who has struggled with knee pain all year, has been eliminated in the first round at the All England Club for the second year in a row. Lingering injuries and recent losses have been a major disappointment for Auger-Aliassime, who began in his late teens and should have been able to thrive on grass with his strong serve and movement.
But nearly 20 years ago, it was a packed Wimbledon schedule that made Canada’s sporting elites look to make Canada a top-level tennis nation. Aside from a long, cold winter, Canada has everything a country needs to achieve great things in tennis: wealth, diversity, and a commitment to investing in building facilities and importing top coaches. seemed to be
It built a tennis center in Montreal, built satellite facilities in other major cities, and began focusing on developing toddlers and teens. He hired Borg’s hitting partner, French tennis luminary Louis Borfiga, to supervise player development.
Blessed with natural talent and supportive parents, Canada had Bouchard and Raonic in action by the mid-2010s, Shapovalov, Andreescu and Auger-Aliassime tearing up the junior rankings, with Fernandez on the line. It didn’t come close.
The success and struggle that led Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime to their first Davis Cup victory for Canada last year fostered friendships among the players. They know when others are playing, even if they aren’t in the same tournament.
“It’s a sin to follow the results of all the same Canadians,” said Fernandez. Just a few years ago, he remembers seeing Auger-Aliassime training a few courts below him in Montreal and thinking, ‘Oh, this is impressive.
When Fernandez was injured last year, one of the first emails he received was from Andreescu. Since winning the 2019 US Open, she seems to have battled all sorts of ailments. Andreescu told Fernandez that he would support her in whatever she needed, that Fernandez would have a tough time ahead, but she would get through it.
When Andreescu twisted his ankle at the Miami Open earlier this year, sustaining a devastating injury, Fernandez immediately sent back support. “I thought, ‘Bianca, you’re strong, you’re definitely coming back, you’re a great tennis player and a great person.'”
On Wednesday, Shapovalov and Raonic spotted each other in the locker room, trying to make up for the rain delay that disrupted the tournament for the week.
Raonic said it’s been so long since he’s dealt with something like that that he’s forgotten his old routine. At first he tried to keep moving so as not to loosen his body, but then I thought maybe he expended too much energy.
He sat down briefly with Shapovalov, who was spending time with his coach answering animal trivia questions. Raonic jumped into the game and everyone enjoyed learning which sea animals can breathe through their butts, he said. (tortoise). There was also a lively discussion about the killing power of mosquitoes versus sharks. Shapovalov was adamant that sharks were scarier than malaria-carrying insects.
Eventually, along with the zoological controversy, the rain stopped. Then came the time for Raonic to return to the court and exhaust Novak with explosive serves and big forehands to deliver the kind of win that always happened before. Albot had no chance late in the afternoon when Shapovalov found his rhythm with smooth, graceful strokes.
Neither Shapovalov nor Raonic may have been at the All England Club this year, symbolizing how tenuous Canadian tennis activity is.
Shapovalov has been limping and limping in recent months and had to cut back on grass practice. The pain became too much.
Raonic said he subscribed to the idea that his post-tennis life began after battling injuries over the past few years. But when he drove past the tennis courts near his home in the Bahamas every day, or watched tennis on TV while working out at his local gym, he decided to give it another try.
On Wednesday, he returned to the All England Club, frustrated that he wasn’t enjoying the moment more, despite playing in the Grand Slams he’s had his biggest success in and helped convince Canada to believe. He said he was. In his words, it was easy to find the larger message that success in a day or an era is often temporary.
“Just being caught up in the whole process of trying to figure out how to compete and win, it really goes by very quickly,” he said. “Then you won’t be able to enjoy the game from the bottom of your heart.”