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Canadian tennis primed for golden era after sensational start to 2019

Feb 28, 2019
written by: Oliver Wheeler
written by: Oliver Wheeler

What a start to the year!

Canada’s tennis stars have already produced some tremendous success stories and we’re only two months into 2019. Are fans on the brink of a golden era of Canadian tennis? Recent results appear to suggest as much.

Bianca Andreescu and Genie Bouchard’s brilliance in Auckland, Brayden Schnur’s sublime play in New York and Félix Auger-Aliassime’s audacious run to his first ATP tour final in Rio have all played a part in what’s been a start to the season to savour. Not forgetting incredible performances by both Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams in Bratislava and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, respectively.

It all began with Andreescu’s fairy-tale run to the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. Following a difficult 2018 campaign marred by injury, the 18-year-old wasted no time in laying down a marker in her first tournament of the new year, upsetting World No. 3 and former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4 to earn the biggest win of her career so far.

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Couple of my fave pics from this week 📸 @tim.marshall

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But there was more to come. Just 24 hours later, the youngster repeated her heroics to see off none other than former World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the quarter-final 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-3 to make it to the last four. There, Andreescu was flawless in a 6-3, 6-3 crushing of Hsieh Su-Wei, seeded third, to set up a meeting with defending champion Julia Goerges in the final. Unfortunately, that was where the dream run ended. A 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 defeat saw the Canadian fall just short of claiming her first career WTA title.

The 18-year-old wouldn’t have to wait long to satisfy her craving for success, though. A run to the round of 64 at the Australian Open was followed swiftly by victory at the Oracle Challenger Series in Newport Beach, California, a WTA 125k tournament. It was there that Andreescu claimed the biggest title of her career, seeing off American Jessica Pegula in three sets, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Meanwhile, back in Auckland, Bouchard, who had been knocked out of the singles competition by Goerges, was making an unexpected run in the doubles. The 25-year-old and her partner Sofia Kenin also reached the final of the ASB Classic – but went one step further and claimed the title. Their 1-6, 6-1, [10-7] win over wild cards Paige Mary Hourigan and Taylor Townsend earned them the first doubles crowns of their careers.

Moving onto the Australian Open, where the men were also making the headlines: Milos Raonic edged Stan Wawrinka in a thrilling encounter before dominating Alexander Zverev in Melbourne. Denis Shapovalov was making similar strides in the tournament before being knocked out by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the round of 32.

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Thank you Melbourne 🙏❤️

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Shapovalov, along with 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime, Peter Polansky and captain Frank Dancevic, then went on to play a major part in Canada’s stunning victory over Slovakia to earn a place in the Davis Cup Finals, to be held in Madrid in November. After coming up short in doubles, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime racked up wins in their singles clashes to seal a crucial 3-2 win for Canada and send the travelling Canadian fans inside Bratislava’s NTC Arena wild. Taking place just over a week later, the draw for the finals pitted Canada alongside the United States and Italy.

Not to be outdone, Canada’s Fed Cup team was determined to replicate the men’s success. Andreescu, Rebecca Marino, Françoise Abanda and Gabriela Dabrowski, who were facing the Netherlands in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, made no mistake in their match-up, producing a 4-0 victory to secure their place in the Fed Cup World Group play-offs in April, where they will face the defending Fed Cup champions and no. 1-ranked Czech Republic.

Back in ATP action, Schnur put on an incredible showing at the New York Open to reach his first tour-level final. A dream week for the Canadian saw him win six matches, including two in the qualifying round, and beat two Top 50 players in Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey. Unfortunately, the final against big-serving American Reilly Opelka proved a step too far for Schnur as he lost 6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(7). His emotional address to the crowd following the match showed exactly what his deep run in the tournament meant to the Pickering native.

One week later and it was Auger-Aliassime in the spotlight. The 18-year-old produced some incredible tennis to surge into the final of the Rio Open in Brazil. In doing so, Auger-Aliassime became the youngest-ever finalist at an ATP 500 event. His display in the semi-final against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay was nothing short of sublime as he breezed past the 33-year-old with a masterclass in serving and powerful play. Like Schnur, though, the 18-year-old would come up just short in the final, losing 6-3, 7-5 to Serbian Laslo Djere. However, his performances and run to the showpiece event in Rio ensured him a place in the ATP top 60.

(Feature image: Photosport)