Canadian tennis on an all-time high

After both Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this week, Canadian tennis finds itself at the highest ebb in history.

Raonic needed five sets to advance past Feliciano Lopez in their fourth round match in Melbourne and in the process became the first Canadian man to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam on three occasions in the Open era, while Bouchard required three sets to get the better of Irina Begu.

In fact the only previous time a Canadian man has managed the feat was when Robert Powell reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 1908, '10 and '12.

Born in Podgorica, Montenegro (formerly Titograd, Yugoslavia) but a Canadian resident since he was three years old, Raonic's breakthrough occurred at the 2014 French Open when he somewhat surprisingly reached the last eight at Roland Garros on a surface many believe to be his worst – a feat which illustrated the strength of his all-round game.

Consistently one of the best servers in the sport, the 24-year-old followed that up with a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon and in the process became the first Canadian to do so since Powell in 1908.  As a result, he also shot to sixth on the world rankings, the highest ever ranking achieved by a Canadian.

Whilst Raonic's rise has been a steady one since turning professional in 2007 – he only made it into the top 10 rankings for the first time in 2013 – Bouchard's rise to fame has been astronomic.

The 20-year-old from Montreal became the first Canadian ever – junior or professional – to win a Grand Slam singles title when she won the Wimbledon Girls' title in 2012.

Less than two years later, she became the first Canadian to reach the Aussie Open semi-finals in 2014 and achieved the same feat at the French Open.

Prior to her exploits at Roland Garros, Bouchard inspired the Canadian Fed Cup team to a victory over Serbia, to claim a position in the World Group for the first time since 2004.

Then at Wimbledon, she became the first player representing Canada to reach the singles final of a Grand Slam, eventually losing in straight sets to Petra Kvitova – a result which moved her to seventh on the WTA rankings – also a first for a Canadian lady.

Raonic and Bouchard may be the best known Canadian players on the circuit, but there are others slowly making their mark.

Vasek Pospisil partnered Raonic to the semi-finals of the Davis Cup in 2013 – their best result in the competition since 1913 – and became the second Canadian after Daniel Nestor to win a doubles title at Wimbledon in 2014.

While Pospisil is regarded as more of a doubles expert he is a regular in the top 50 of the ATP rankings, with a personal best of 25th, achieved at the start of the 2014 season.

There is more talent coming through too…

Filip Peliwo won the Wimbledon Boys' title in 2012, the day after Bouchard managed the same feat, to become the first Canadian male to win a Grand Slam singles title of any description. 

Peliwo then won at Flushing Meadows as well to finish the year as the number one ranked junior, the first time a Canadian has managed that feat.

Clearly there is a massive gulf in quality between the junior game and the professional circuit – many a junior champion has come to nothing in the senior game – and Peliwo is currently still learning his trade on the Challenger circuit.

But at 20-years-old, Peliwo clearly has time on his side.

By Barend Prins

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