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The Great Canadian Hope January 30, 2011

Posted by dczarum in Uncategorized.
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What must have seemed like a dream run for the world’s 152nd ranked tennis player (and a Canadian, no less) came to an end earlier this week at the Australian Open in Melbourne. After beating the 22nd and 10th seeds and becoming the first qualifier to reach the round of sixteen at a Grand Slam in twelve years, Thornhill, Ontario native Milos Raonic lost in four sets (4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4) to #7 David Ferrer. Had he won, Raonic would have become the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Not that Canadian tennis fans are exactly complaining.

Equipped with one of the most powerful serves on tour (ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe called it the strongest he’s ever seen) and a 6’5 frame that lets him cover the court with ease, nineteen year-old Raonic is the most promising player to come out of Canada in years. His confidence steadily grew throughout the week as his Aussie Open performance showed that he has the ability to compete amongst the tennis elite.

“There’s a lot to learn from today and from the whole two-week experience,” said Raonic, who unleashed 15 aces in defeat. “The biggest thing is I’m not that far away from this level on a week-to-week basis. This is a great motivational thing for the work I’ve done.”

Of course, anyone in attendance on the opening night of last summers’ Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto knows what Raonic is capable of against tennis’s top dogs.

On what had already been dubbed “Tennis Canada night” at the sporting organizations newly revamped Rexall Centre on the campus of York University, the Canucks shone bright. In the evening’s first match, local kid Peter Peter Polansky (ranked 200th in the world at the time) upset 15th ranked Austrian Jergin Melzer to the delight of the capacity crowd in attendance. Still, the best was yet to come.

When Raonic and Alberta’s Vasek Pospisil stepped on the court, they looked like they were about to be fed to the lions. And, in a way, they were. Roanic and Pospisil, ranked 217 and 329, respectively, were set to take on the world’s number 1 and 2 ranked players, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokavic, in a highly anticipated first-round doubles match. It marked the first time that the top two players in the world had teamed up since Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe in 1976. Two closely-contested sets and a nail-biting 10-8 tiebreaker later, the Canadian Kids had beaten Nadal and Djokovic in what could only be considered a Tennis Canada Night miracle.

For Roanic, that match was the Big Bang of his career, the instant when everything changed and his game rapidly expanded. He moved to Spain in September to train full-time under Tennis Canada coach Galo Blanco, and has shown steady signs of improvement ever since.

At the Aussie Open this week, Raonic gave a global viewing audience a taste of what he is capable of (in his four matches, he recorded over seventy five aces), and his electrifying skills didn’t go unnoticed. As he left the court after his loss to Ferrer, those in attendance Down Under gave the kid from Canada a rousing ovation. It was their way of letting him know that, in their eyes, he was no fluke, and had been accepted as the real deal. Though he entered the tournament an unknown, the Great Canadian Hope with the big serve is surely one of the most intriguing players to watch as 2011 unfolds.

Dave Zarum

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1. Tennis Canada accused of sexism for Rogers Cup ad | The Sporting Life | torontolife.com - July 20, 2011

[…] When the men were in town last year, the tourney turned into a coming-out party for some of the country’s top talent, and we’re hoping more exciting tennis phenoms will turns heads—for the right reasons—again […]


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