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Home   News   Tebbutt: Canadians in 2018

Tebbutt: Canadians in 2018

Dec 18, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt

For last week’s Genius/Joker Quiz with answers – click here.

MILOS RAONIC

Ranking – Start No. 24: Finish No. 18: High: No. 18

Win/Loss: 32/15

High Point: He reached the final of the Stuttgart ATP 250 on grass in June, losing 6-4, 7-6(3) to Roger Federer.

Low Point: Not wanting to miss his second Grand Slam in a row, he played in Australia after an off-season knee injury and simply wasn’t ready – losing 6-4, 6-4 first round in Brisbane to No. 208-ranked Alex de Minaur and then 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the opening round at Melbourne Park to No. 86 Lukas Lacko.

Signature win: While Stan Wawrinka was ranked No. 101 at the time, beating the Swiss 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-3 (saving 2 set points in the opening set) in the third round of the US Open was no simple matter. Not counting a victory over a slumping No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov in Madrid in May, it was the closest Raonic came to having a win over a ‘big name’ in 2018.

Summary: Having dipped as low as No. 40 on Feb. 26, finishing No. 18 isn’t so bad considering he was hampered by knee, pectoral, quad, hip and elbow injury issues during the year.

Outlook: Entering 2019 as a 28-year-old, Raonic is in his prime and should comfortably reach the top-10 – if he can remain fit.

Next Up: He’s playing an exhibition in Hawaii from Dec. 21-23 and then the Brisbane ATP 250 next month before a week off ahead of his ninth consecutive appearance at the Australian Open – best finish semi-finals in 2016.

Photo: Mauricio Paiz

DENIS SHAPOVALOV

Ranking – Start: No. 51: Finish No. 27: High: No. 23

Win/Loss: 35/28

High Point: After a slow start to the clay-court season, he reached the semi-finals of the Masters 1000 in Madrid, defeating No. 24 Milos Raonic and No. 22 Kyle Edmund before losing 6-4, 6-1 to No. 3 Sascha Zverev in the semi-finals.

Low Point: He lost 6-2, 6-4 to No. 145 Ernests Gulbis in Stockholm as he tailed off toward the end of the season for the second year in a row. That led to him skipping his final scheduled event – the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

Signature Win: He defeated long-time junior rival Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(5) in the first round of the Australian Open. He just missed two other big wins – losing 3-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in the Aussie Open second round to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after leading 5-2 in the final set, and also 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to No. 5-ranked Kevin Anderson in the third round of the US Open.

Summary: Still just 19 years old, Shapovalov had a remarkably consistent 2018. While he didn’t win a tournament, one of his goals before the season began, he showed no signs of the sophomore jinx while establishing himself as a legit top player on the tour.

Outlook: Karen Khachanov, Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev were the talk of the end of 2018 and have taken some of the focus away from Shapovalov, who’s nicely positioned to make a move into the top-20 or higher in 2019.

Next Up: He’s entered in the ATP 250 in Auckland in the second week of 2019 before playing the Australian Open.

Photo: Mauricio Paiz

VASEK POSPISIL

Ranking – Start: No. 108 Finish: 70 High: 70

Win/Loss: 8/15

High Point: Pospisil played 10 Challenger events and 16 main tour events in 2018. A key to his year was winning a Challenger title in Rennes, France in January followed by another in Budapest in February.

Low Point: A good lawn tennis player, he failed to win a match on European grass, losing first round in ’s Hertogenbosch, Halle and at Wimbledon.

Signature Win: A 7-6(3), 7-5 victory over Milos Raonic in Antwerp in October was his first in three pro tour meetings with his compatriot and old junior rival.

Summary: Pospisil, 28, solidified his coaching situation – with veteran Dirk Hordorff of Germany – and used Challenger successes to anchor a year when he moved solidly back into the top-100, positioning himself for even greater success in 2019.

Outlook: A worrisome back injury that has put his participation in the Australian Open in jeopardy, will be a challenge early next year as he tries to build on the progress he made in 2018.

Next Up: Pospisil is an alternate for the main draw at ATP 250 in Doha, Qatar, two weeks before the Australian Open, but it’s questionable at the moment if he’ll be fit enough to play.

FELIX AUGER-ALIASSIME

Ranking – Start: No. 162 Finish: No. 109 High: No. 108

Win/Loss: 6/10

High Point: It’s never easy at any level to defend a title, but Auger-Aliassime successfully did just that with his Challenger victory in Lyon, France, on clay in June. But his greatest success was winning the Tashkent (Uzbekistan) Challenger in October. He won three qualifying matches and then five in the main draw including a quarter-final victory over Uzbek veteran, No. 87-ranked Denis Istomin.

Low Point: During a run of six tournaments in March and April, he won just two matches – but that’s not surprising because he was still just 17 at the time.

Signature Win: He beat Lucas Pouille (No. 18) at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and Hyeon Chung (No. 23) in Chengdu in October. But getting his first ever ATP tour victory – 6-2, 7-6(4) over compatriot, No. 75-ranked Vasek Pospisil, in the first round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells before a supportive, enthusiastic crowd – marked a major breakthrough for the Montrealer.

Summary: He became the youngest player (at 17) to defend a Challenger title when he won in Lyon and then one of only six players in history to win four Challenger titles at 18 years or younger with his victory in Tashkent. There was the crushing disappointment of an accelerating heart rate that forced him out of his first-round match with pal Denis Shapovalov at the US Open, but overall he confirmed why so many people in tennis see nothing but a very bright future for him.

Outlook: At No. 109, it’s obvious breaking the top-100 is the next step – and taking it even further and getting into the top-50 is definitely achievable if he stays injury free.

Next Up: He’s entered in the qualifying for the ATP 250 in Pune, India, at the start of 2019 and then he’ll play the Australian Open qualifying.

PETER POLANSKY

Ranking – Start: No. 137 Finish: No. 121 High: No. 110

Win/Loss: 3/11

High Point: It’s impossible to ignore his quirky yet historic feat of being a lucky loser at all four Grand Slams in 2018. He also won the $100,000 Banque Nationale Challenger in Granby, Que., his third career title at the Challenger level.

Low Point: After getting into the main draws at the four Grand Slams, Polansky won only one set in first-round exits to No. 47 Karen Khachanov, No. 87 Pierre-Hugues Herbert, No. 171 Dennis Novak and No. 4 Sascha Zverev.

Signature win: He defeated then No. 81-ranked (now No. 60) Marius Copil 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 7-6(12) in an opening-round epic at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March. It took him eight match points, and he had to save two match points, before wrapping up the three hour and 12-minute marathon.

Summary: Polansky fans have long been hoping that he could break into the top-100 and also rank high enough to get directly into a Grand Slam. He reached No. 110 in late June and early July but ran into a stretch of events with big points to defend and was unable to climb any higher.

Outlook: The 30-year-old has talked about playing four or five more years on tour, so he should have a few more tries at breaking that top-100 barrier.

Next Up: He’s on the list for the Brisbane qualifying the first week of January and then will play the Aussie Open qualifying for the 10th time – he has qualified once and twice made the main draw as a lucky loser.

BRAYDEN SCHNUR

Ranking – Start: No. 217 Finish: No. 174 High: No. 174

Win/Loss: 24-22 (Challenger Tour)

High Point: He won three qualifying and two main draw matches – including beating No. 184 Filip Peliwo and No. 164 Tatsuma Ito – to reach the quarter-finals of the Challenger event on grass in Nottingham before Wimbledon.

Low Point: With a chance to make the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time, he lost 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-1 to No. 198 Christian Harrison in the final round of qualifying at Wimbledon.

Signature match: He played only four top-100 players all year – including losing 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to No. 83 Vasek Pospisil in the Seoul Challenger – getting his only win by beating No. 92 Jason Kubler 6-4, 7-6(4) in Kaohsiung, China, in September.

Summary: Schnur started the year well in the first week of January by reaching the final of a Challenger in Adelaide, Australia – the first of 26 he would play in 2018 – before losing to 6-4, 6-2 to Kubler. He also finished well by making the semi-finals of his last two events in India – Challengers in Bangalore and Pune – to allow him to end the season at a career high.

Outlook: At 23, Schnur has done a lot of hard slogging all over the world and will hopefully be rewarded with a push toward a top-100 ranking in 2019.

Next Up: He’s in the qualifying for the ATP 250 in Pune the first week of January and then will play the Aussie Open qualies for the second year in a row.

The Women

GENIE BOUCHARD

Ranking – Start: No. 83 Finish: No. 87 High: No. 87

Win/Loss: 27/19

High Point: Bouchard won six matches (including three in qualifying and then three in the main draw over No. 63 Timea Babos, No. 24 Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 67 Andrea Petkovic before losing to No. 9 Julia Goerges) in a semi-final showing at the WTA International event in Luxembourg in October. That allowed her to re-enter the top-100.

Low Point: She had a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 loss to No. 178 Paula Badosa Gibert of Spain at the ITF event on clay in Contrexeville, France, the second week of Wimbledon. But as low as that was the very next week she rebounded to make the semi-finals at the Gstaad, Switzerland, WTA International tournament.

Signature Win: Bouchard defeated No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) to level Canada’s Fed Cup World Group II tie with Ukraine at 2-2 in Montreal in April. Both players were near exhaustion at the end and Bouchard came through at 5-all in the final set tiebreak with an un-returnable forehand followed by an un-returned serve to clinch the win in two hours and 39 minutes.

Summary: Bouchard had a poor start to the year – retiring from matches in Taipei and the French Open qualifying with injuries – and her ranking tumbled to No. 194 in June. But a strong second half starting in Gstaad allowed her ranking to return to the positive side of No. 100.

Outlook: Hooking up with the moxie of American coach Michael Joyce – late of Maria Sharapova, Johanna Konta, Jessica Pegula and Victoria Azarenka – should give the 24-year-old Montrealer a boost heading into 2019.

Next Up: Bouchard is playing an exhibition in Hawaii Dec. 21- 23 and then in Auckland leading into her sixth Australia Open. At 13-5, it’s the most successful of her Grand Slam events.

BIANCA ANDREESCU

Ranking – Start: No. 189 Finish: No. 153 High: No. 153

Win/Loss: 43/17

High Point: Andreescu peaked in the fall, twice winning six matches in a row to take the ITF $25,000 event titles in Florence, S.C., in October and Norman, Okla., in November.

Low Point: In the first round of qualifying at the 2018 Australian Open, Andreescu, still 17, was beaten 6-1, 6-1 in a lacklustre effort against a woman with whom she shares a Romanian heritage, No. 190-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru.

Signature Win: It actually came in doubles in Fed Cup as she combined with Gabriela Dabrowski to win the fifth and deciding match against Ukraine in Montreal in April. Despite having to retire with severe cramping the previous day in a singles loss to Lesia Tsurenko, Andreescu was a rock partnering No. 10-ranked doubles stalwart Dabrowski as they defeated Kateryna Bondarenko and Olga Savchuk 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Summary: Andreescu, who turned 18 in June, lost in the final round of qualifying at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon and then was bothered at times through the summer and fall with a back issue that probably prevented her from having better results.

Outlook: An excellent ball-striker with a sound competitive temperament, she should be able to build on an upbeat end to the 2018 season

Next Up: Andreescu will play the qualifying for the WTA event in Auckland the first week of January and then the Aussie Open qualifying. She’s entered in the $125,000 WTA tournament in Newport Beach, Cal., the second week of the Australian Open.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

REBECCA MARINO

Ranking – Start: 0 Finish: No. 189 High: No. 184

Win/Loss: 49-12

High Point: Winning the $50,000 National Bank Challenger in Winnipeg in July was just one more validation on the trail of her remarkable return to the women’s tour.

Low Point: A back injury compromised her last two events in California in Templeton and Stockton, preventing her ranking from going even higher.

Signature Wins: She beat No. 66-ranked Vera Lapko in the Rogers Cup (Montreal) qualifying and also No. 62 Tatjana Maria in the opening round of the Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City.

Summary: For a player who had not played since February, 2013, and who was starting out again at age 27 with no ranking at all, finishing No. 189 was an amazing feat.

Outlook: New rules for lowest-level ITF events means that results from this year’s ITF $15,000 tournaments are to be wiped off the WTA rankings at the start of 2019. So Marino’s current No. 189 will drop to about No. 215. That would have happened anyway in late February. Hopefully she will soon have results to replace the ones she will lose from those $15,000 ITF events in Antalya, Turkey, where she started her comeback last January.

Next Up: Marino has been rehabbing a back injury and it’s uncertain whether she will be ready for the beginning of 2019, including the qualifying at the Aussie Open.

NOTE: We have reviewed all the Canadians in the top-200 of singles. A mention should be made of Katherine Sebov, the 19-year-old from Toronto who had a strong finish to 2018, enabling her to reach a career high No. 204. That earns her a spot in the 2019 Australian Open qualifying – her first at a Grand Slam event. She may play the qualifying at the Auckland WTA tournament to start off the new season or possibly the $25,000 ITF event in Adelaide, Australia. Like Andreescu, she’s entered in the $125 WTA event in Newport Beach, Cal., the second week of the Australian Open.

FAVOURITE VLOGS – SUMMER OF ’18

Bjorn Hellberg is a legend among tennis writers. Listen to this remarkable Swede’s memories of the great Bjorn Borg and others, as well as his stories from more than 50 consecutive years of covering Wimbledon.

NOTE: Next week Tebbutt Tuesday exceptionally will be posted on Monday, December 24th featuring ‘our favourite pictures from 2018.’