Photo : Martin Sidorjak/Tennis Canada
If there’s one thing almost no sports fan can resist, it’s making predictions.
With a new season about to get underway, we asked our favourite tennis experts to gaze into their crystal ball and tell us what 2022 could have in store for our superstars and up-and-comers.
Sylvain Bruneau, who leads women’s pro tennis at Tennis Canada, and Guillaume Marx, who heads the men’s program, agreed to play along, assuming, of course, that everyone stays healthy and we all find a new, post-COVID-19, normal.
First, the women of the WTA.
In just a two-year interval, Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez fought their way to the US Open final. It certainly wasn’t by chance, and that’s exactly why Bianca will likely regain her spot in the Top 20—if not the Top 10—and Leylah will be right up there with her. When and how? That’s a little more challenging to predict. If they remain injury-free, they can unsettle any member of the WTA elite.
“For Leylah, the bar is high. She won’t move up 64 spots like she did in 2021, but one thing is for sure: she’ll keep progressing and keep rising in 2022,” affirmed Sylvain Bruneau.
A self-proclaimed eternal optimist, Bruneau also had a few predictions for Bianca Andreescu, whom he no longer coaches but still keeps in touch with: “Bianca went through such a complicated period of injuries, pandemic, comeback, COVID-19, more injuries and now the decision to skip Australia. Still, I’m sure things will look up in 2022. If she can stay healthy, she’ll find her bearings and achieve great things.”
When asked about Rebecca Marino, Sylvain Bruneau had only good things to say. This December, he spent a few days with her in Vancouver to support her inspiring campaign to get back into the Top 100. This past season, she climbed 167 places in the rankings, from No.321 to No.145: “There’s no doubt in my mind: 2022 will be a really great season for her. Even speaking conservatively, she can make it into the Top 100.”
Like the rest of us, Bruneau saw Eugenie Bouchard’s posts on Instagram and Twitter marking her return to the courts after months away.
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“It’s difficult to make predictions about getting back to tennis after shoulder surgery. It can be complicated. Her doctors have been very encouraging, but it’s important to be patient,” said the coach. “She told me she was ready to compete in smaller events, get as many points as she can and be smart about moving up.”
I couldn’t help but ask Sylvain what 2022 could hold for Françoise Abanda, given her surprising performance at Billie Jean King Cup last November. “We established a program in Montréal. Even though she’s had a career for several years, I’m convinced Françoise hasn’t even come close to reaching her full potential. And 2022 may be the year we see her tremendous talent emerge,” he replied.
In addition to expecting our doubles champion Gabriela Dabrowski to keep her fantastic momentum going in 2022, Sylvain talked about the talented players waiting in the wings: “Victoria Mboko, Kayla Cross, Mia Kupres and Annabelle Xu are four young women between the ages of 15 and 17. Cross and Kupres made it to the quarterfinals of the recent—and famous—Orange Bowl tournament in Miami. Mboko, who’s the youngest of the group, got as far as the third round. We’re going to make sure they continue their excellent progress.”
And, yes, competing in the junior Slams is definitely in the cards for them.
When it comes to Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, Guillaume Marx is equally optimistic.
“Why not a title or two for Félix?” said his former coach. “The quick week he spent in the Top 10 in mid-November was just a taste of what’s to come in 2022. I think he’ll enter the Top 10 and stay there. He could even end up around No.7, with a title—his first—and maybe even a second.”
As for Denis, he ended the season with a final appearance in Stockholm and a few matches in mid-December in Abu Dhabi, where he played some great tennis and locked in an interesting win over Rafael Nadal. While Marx cautiously predicted two or three streaks of brilliance by Shapovalov, I suggested he could secure another title, since such a talented player shouldn’t have to spend another year without raising a winner’s trophy.
And Milos Raonic?
“Milos can’t always be stopped by injury. There’s still too much great tennis in him. I think things will be more normal for him. He’ll get back into the Top 25 and win an ATP 250 title,” said Guillaume, with the utmost confidence.
What about Vasek Pospisil (No.133) and Brayden Schnur (No.238)? The prediction (or hope, at least) is a spot in the Top 100 for both: between No.75 and No.100 for Vasek and No.100 by the end of the season for Brayden, who climbed as high as No.92 in fall 2019.
Like Sylvain Bruneau, Guillaume sees great things for Canadian men’s tennis.
Liam Draxl of Ontario has been consistently progressing since wrapping up his tenure with the University of Kentucky Wildcats. The 20-year-old has a 27–14 record in Challenger events and several Futures/M15 tournaments with $15 000 in prizemoney. “I see him keeping the momentum going and winning his first Challenger title,” affirmed Marx. He expects the same from 22-year-old Quebecer Alexis Galarneau: a spot in the Top 200 and his first Challenger trophy.
As for the juniors, Marx has high hopes for Gabriel Diallo and Jaden Weekes of Québec and Liam Drover-Mattinen of Newfoundland and Labrador. “I believe Diallo could get two Futures titles, like Draxl recently did in Cancun. As for Liam, he should enter the junior Top 100. I see Jaden in the Top 10 and even a junior Grand Slam semifinal. Maybe Wimbledon. We’ll see.”