Raonic has the makings of a tennis champ

Canada is on the cusp of becoming a great tennis nation, but the path to glory needs a champion, not another also-ran

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Michael TaubeCanadians have recently had a great deal to cheer about in – of all sports – tennis.

Eugenie Bouchard’s magical run to the 2014 Wimbledon women’s final caught our attention. Meanwhile, Milos Raonic’s surprise appearance in this year’s Wimbledon men’s final took this country by storm.

There was hope that Raonic could win the title, and finally take Canadian tennis to the long-awaited pinnacle. Alas, he was soundly beaten by Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 on Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

Murray was the heavy favourite going into this match. The Scottish-born talent, who plays for Great Britain, had reached 10 previous Grand Slam finals, winning the U.S. Open (2012) and Wimbledon (2013).

It was a missed opportunity for the Canadian. He had come back from two sets down to beat David Goffin in the fourth round. He later became the first player to ever beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals after five grueling sets.

Going down to Murray in straight sets, even though there was only one break in the match, was quite disappointing.

This doesn’t mean Raonic won’t ever win a Grand Slam title. It would be hard to believe otherwise. But how long this will take is anyone’s guess.

This has been the never-ending story with Canadian tennis: many opportunities and few real results. Our country only won its first Grand Slam title in tennis in 1999. That was in men’s doubles at the U.S. Open, when Sébastien Lareau teamed up with the U.S.’s Alex O’Brien. (Two other Canadian men, Grant Connell and Glenn Michibata, had reached Grand Slam doubles finals but came up empty handed.)

Since that time, Daniel Nestor has won eight Grand Slam men’s doubles titles (including at least one in all four major tournaments) and four in mixed doubles. Vasek Pospisil also won the 2014 Wimbledon men’s doubles title with his American partner, Jack Sock.

Several junior players have also achieved success in singles: Bouchard (Wimbledon 2012), Filip Peliwo (Wimbledon and U.S. Open 2012) and Denis Shapovalov (Wimbledon 2016).

The Canadian women have had a more difficult route. Jill Hetherington reached two Grand Slam doubles finals (U.S. Open in 1988, Australian Open in 1999) and the 1995 French Open mixed doubles final, but lost them all. Carling Bassett Seguso made it to the 1984 French Open semi-finals. Helen Kelesi reached the French Open quarter-finals in 1988 and 1989. Patricia Hy-Boulais reached the 1992 U.S. Open quarter-finals in singles, and 1987 Australian Open semi-finals in doubles. Aleksandra Wozniak made it to the quarter-finals at the 2009 Australian Open mixed doubles tournament.

That’s what made Bouchard’s Wimbledon run so stunning. She was the first Canadian, male or female, to reach this level in singles competition and looked ready to make history. Sadly, she was crushed by Petra Kvitová – and her game has still not fully recovered.

The hope is Raonic, the first Canadian man to reach the semi-finals or better at a Grand Slam tournament since Robert Powell (Wimbledon 1908), will not fall under the same dark spell as Bouchard.

It should be noted that he realizes he has to walk this important final step. When asked by the BBC about the impact of becoming the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final, he said: “Well, you know, it will be a bigger impact if I can win. So, that’s what I’ve got to focus on first, and I got to put all my energy into that. And then hopefully, it does have a great impact.”

That’s the key. Canada is on the cusp of becoming a great tennis nation, but the path to glory needs a champion, not another also-ran. Maybe Raonic is the one who can finally complete this journey.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

© Troy Media


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