Earlier this week Daniel Nestor announced his plans to retire from professional tennis after the 2018 Rogers Cup, with a potential farewell coming at the US Open. The 45-year-old veteran has put Canada on the map in tennis and has opened the door for others success, including Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil and Eugenie Bouchard.
The closing of one door means another has opened, and for Canadian tennis fans it has opened to a bright future full of young talent already making names for themselves on the professional circuit.
Two Canadian teenagers have consistently found themselves in the news this year, both pinned ATP Next Gen stars and the future of Canadian tennis.
The youngest is 17-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime.
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) September 9, 2017
When Félix won his first Challenger title in Lyon this past June he became the seventh youngest man in ATP history to win a Challenger title (16 years, 10 months). This past week Félix claimed his second Challenger title in Sevilla, becoming the youngest two-time Challenger champion (17 years, 1 month) since Richard Gasquet in 2002.
With his deep tournament runs dating back to November 2016, Félix is the youngest man ranked inside the Top 200 and youngest to crack the Top 200 since Rafael Nadal.
— Denis Shapovalov (@denis_shapo) September 10, 2017
Speaking of young Canadians at the top of the game, Denis Shapovalov is the youngest man in the Top 100. Denis, who started the season at world no. 250, currently sits at 51 in the ATP rankings. His rapid rise up the rankings is credited to his summer breakthrough in Montreal, where he became the youngest man in history to reach a Masters 1000 semifinal, and in New York, where he came through qualifying to reach the fourth round at the US Open.
With three months remaining in the season, a top 50 year-end ranking is within reach for Denis. This would be a significant accomplishment for the 18-year-old – Not even Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray finished in the Top 50 when they were 18.
Former world no. 1 Mats Wilander said watching Denis was “like watching a combination of Nadal and Federer at 18-years-old…the fire and speed around the court of Nadal and the grace of Federer.”
Just witnessed something historic! Inspiring tennis from my brother @denis_shapo next gen is here 💪🏽❤️
— Félix AugerAliassime (@felixtennis) August 11, 2017
Also breaking out on tour this season is Brayden Schnur, a two-time All American from the University of North Carolina and playing his first full season this year. The 22-year-old Toronto native has made three ATP Challenger quarterfinals, one semifinal and has won two Futures titles this season. He is also making his Davis Cup debut in Edmonton as Canada takes on India in the World Group Play-offs.
Schnur will open Davis Cup action on Friday, September 15 against India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan. It will be their first meeting.
The 2017 season began Down Under in Melbourne with Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine picking up the girls’ doubles title at the Australian Open. Grand Slam success would not be a one-time occurrence for the duo who continued their partnership at Roland Garros and won their second Grand Slam title together.
Their success transitioned well onto the WTA Tour, as well. At Rogers Cup Bianca and Carson pulled off an incredible upset of Kristina Mladenovic/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the first round. At Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City, the duo reached their first WTA quarterfinal.
Bianca has had a breakthrough year on tour. After reaching the junior girls’ semifinals in Melbourne, Bianca helped Team Canada advance to World Group in Fed Cup action against Kazakstan.
The summer brought more milestones for the Mississauga native. After qualifying for her first Grand Slam main draw at Wimbledon, Bianca received a wildcard into the Citi Open in Washington. There she became the youngest Canadian woman to win a WTA main draw match since Maureen Drake in 1988. In her following match Bianca made history by becoming the first player born after 2000 to defeat a Top 20 opponent (world no. 13 Kristina Mladenovic). Bianca made the quarter-finals in her first WTA tournament.
Her results in July earned Bianca the fan-voted WTA Breakthrough of the Month award. She defeated two Top 50 players – Bellis and Siniakova – to earn the award.
And never count out Françoise Abanda. At 17-years-old the Montreal native qualified for the 2014 US Open, only dropping six games in three matches to make the main draw. A regular Fed Cup participant, Françoise is some of her best tennis in 2017, qualifying for consecutive Majors (Roland Garros & Wimbledon) and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Most recently, the 20-year-old earned a spot in her first WTA quarterfinal at Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City.
With Félix, Denis, Brayden, Bianca, Carson and Françoise making strides on tour, and the emergence of Benjamin Sigouin, Carol Zhao, Charlotte Robillard-Millette and Katherine Sebov, the future of Canadian tennis has never looked so bright.