Australian Open has Canadian storylines galore
|Toronto Star 11 Jan 2019 at 13:05|
There are myriad Canadian storylines as the tennis season kicks into high gear Monday at the first Grand Slam of the season ‚ÄĒ the Australian Open ‚ÄĒ at Melbourne Park.
Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov are both ranked in the top 30 and Bianca Andreescu seems ready to break out. Eugenie Bouchard looks rejuvenated and Gabriela Dabrowski is a threat to win any doubles event she enters.
‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs great here is that for a change we‚Äôre not just looking at one or two athletes and crossing our fingers that they continue to advance,‚ÄĚ said Tennis Canada president and chief executive officer Michael Downey.
While not in the main draw in Melbourne, Montreal‚Äôs Felix Auger-Aliassime is one of the sport‚Äôs top young prospects and Vancouver‚Äôs Rebecca Marino is looking to build off a solid comeback season.
Injured Vancouver player Vasek Pospisil is confident he can get back in the top 50 and Peter Polansky of Thornhill is hovering just outside the top 100.
‚ÄúAt the end of next year, you could have six, seven, eight Canadians in the top 100 in singles,‚ÄĚ Downey said. ‚ÄúThat is knocking on the door of being a leading tennis nation which is ideally what we want Canadian tennis to be.‚ÄĚ
Raonic, also from Thornhill, is the No. 16 seed in Melbourne and should get a stiff test in his opener against Australian Nick Kyrgios. They have split six previous matchups.
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., lost his season debut earlier this week in Auckland. The No. 25 seed will open against Pablo Andujar of Spain.
Bouchard, the world No. 79, received a direct entry into the women‚Äôs main draw while Andreescu won three qualifying matches to get her spot. Both players are coming off impressive showings at the ASB Classic.
The 18-year-old Andreescu stunned two former world No. 1s en route to her first career appearance in a WTA Tour final. After a gruelling run of eight matches in nine days, she caught a break in Melbourne when two of her opponents retired early due to injury.
Andreescu, from Mississauga, generated plenty of buzz last week after victories over big names such as Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams. She said she‚Äôs ready for the brighter spotlight.
Bouchard is coming off a quarterfinal appearance in singles play and her first career WTA doubles title with American Sofia Kenin.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs fought her way back from basically top 200 to where she sits today at (No. 79),‚ÄĚ Downey said of Bouchard, a former world No. 5. ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs clearly back in the driver‚Äôs seat. She‚Äôs committed. But I think it‚Äôs great that Bianca is going to join her (in the top 100) soon.‚ÄĚ
Bouchard kicked off her stellar 2014 season with a semifinal appearance in Melbourne. She reached the final four at the French Open that year and made it to the Wimbledon final.
The Westmount, Que., native made it to the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2015 but has struggled with her game in recent seasons.
‚ÄúShe was really young,‚ÄĚ Canadian women‚Äôs head coach Sylvain Bruneau said. ‚ÄúShe had a lot of things to handle and deal with. I think she‚Äôs got experience and more wisdom. She‚Äôs slowing it down ... she‚Äôs only 24.
‚ÄúWe need to be careful if someone has a couple of tough seasons, to not count them out because she has all the tools to come back really high in the ranking.‚ÄĚ
Wild-card opponents await both Canadians in the women‚Äôs draw. Bouchard will take on world No. 129 Shuai Peng of China while Andreescu meets 199th-ranked American Whitney Osuigwe.
The Australian Open doubles draws have yet to be released.
Dabrowski, from Ottawa, won three women‚Äôs doubles titles last season and is ranked 10th in the world. She also won the Australian Open mixed doubles title last year with Croatia‚Äôs Mate Pavic.
Marino lost her first-round qualifying match earlier in the week. The 28-year-old returned last season after taking a five-year break from the sport.
A former top-40 player, she jumped over 700 spots in the last year to No. 216.
‚ÄúI think she‚Äôs going to keep progressing in 2019,‚ÄĚ Bruneau said. ‚ÄúI think there is the potential there to have a very beautiful story and we‚Äôre going to work hard towards it to make it happen.‚ÄĚ