The 2017 season was under review during a press conference held on Thursday at the Tennis Canada offices, as Louis Borfiga, Vice-President of High Performance, along with Sylvain Bruneau, Captain of the Fed Cup team, and Guillaume Marx, National Coach responsible for the NTC’s male program, looked back at the Canadian tennis highlights of the past year. In total, eleven Canadian players are currently ranked inside the Top 200 of the ATP and WTA rankings.
If in recent years Canadian tennis has been predominantly marked by a group of three players, Eugenie Bouchard, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic, the 2017 season has allowed another trio to emerge, namely Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. These three players had previously made their mark at the junior level and are now continuing to garner attention throughout their transition to the professional tour. The highlight of the past year belongs to Shapovalov, who became the youngest player in history to reach the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, notably eliminating Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal along the way. A few weeks later, he also became the youngest player since 1989 to qualify for the fourth round at the US Open. His impressive results have propelled him into the ATP Top 50. For his part, Auger-Aliassime became the third 17-year-old in history to win multiple ATP Challenger titles, joining Richard Gasquet and Nadal in that category. Despite being absent for a few months due to injury, he managed to climb over 400 spots in the rankings this year. Meanwhile, Andreescu became the youngest Canadian since 1988 to win a main draw match at a WTA tournament when she made a deep run to the quarter-finals in Washington. During this tournament, she also became the first player born in the 2000s to defeat a Top 20 player when she eliminated Kristina Mladenovic (no. 13).
“It was certainly an incredible year for our next generation of players,” stated Borfiga. “We were already aware that they possessed the talent, the determination and the passion to achieve greatness, but they have definitely managed to convince the remaining skeptics. Canada currently boasts the youngest player in the ATP Top 100, the youngest player in the ATP Top 200 and one of the four 17-year-olds currently in the WTA Top 200. These young players still have many things left to accomplish, of which they are well aware, but the future is promising and they will want to continue on their momentum in 2018.”
As for the veterans, a series of injuries caused Raonic’s plans to change, he who began the year with the highest ranking of his career, world no. 3. Nevertheless, the Ontario-native managed to reach the finals of two ATP 250 tournaments, in Delray Beach and Istanbul, in addition to reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Pospisil, meanwhile, earned the biggest win of his career by upsetting World No. 1 Andy Murray in the second round at Indian Wells. As for Eugenie Bouchard, despite a disappointing season, she earned two wins against Top 10 opponents, beating Dominika Cibulkova (then no. 6) in Sydney and Angelique Kerber (then no. 2) in Madrid.
“The career of a tennis player is never a straight line. There will always be pitfalls and more difficult moments,” emphasized Borfiga. “The 2017 season may have been more difficult for some, but I am confident that they will bounce back in 2018 because all three are hard-working athletes who are not afraid to put in the time and effort.”
The 2017 season has also proven that Canada’s talent pool is getting deeper as 11 players are now ranked among the 200 best players on the professional circuit, including seven players in the ATP Top 200, which was previously unheard of in Canadian tennis. In fact, these results came about thanks to the consistency of players like Peter Polansky, who reached three consecutive finals on Canadian soil, and thanks to the breakthrough of Filip Peliwo, who won an impressive total of seven titles in 2017, Carol Zhao, who earned her first title on the Challenger circuit, Françoise Abanda, who won her first main draw match at a Grand Slam, and Brayden Schnur, who climbed over 300 spots in his first full year on the professional tour. Finally, Canada also added three Grand Slam titles to its record with the two doubles titles won by Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine at the junior Australian Open and junior French Open, in addition to Gabriela Dabrowski’s mixed doubles title at the French Open. Dabrowski, who finished the 2017 season ranked world no. 18 in doubles, became the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam title. She also participated in the WTA Finals, which featured the eight best doubles teams in the world. On the men’s side, Daniel Nestor is still the country’s highest ranked doubles player. The 45-year-old legend, winner of 91 career titles, is preparing to play his final season before retiring.