Championship weekend at the U.S. Open is upon us, and it won’t include any participants from Canada. The fact that this is something of a disappointment to this country’s tennis fans is new, and encouraging.
The next-generation men’s singles star Milos Raonic, the women’s counterpart Eugenie Bouchard and the emerging doubles player Vasek Pospisil (who has a Grand Slam title this year, at Wimbledon) may have exited. But this is probably the greatest season ever for tennis players from Canada.
The Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams are qualified for their respective World Groups – the very pinnacle of the international game.
Ms. Bouchard, still just 20, reached two semis and a final at majors this season (no other woman came close), the 23-year-old Mr. Raonic played in the semi-final at Wimbledon and is the highest-seeded Canadian player ever to take the court in a Grand Slam.
In a career first, 17-year-old Françoise Abanda of Montreal qualified for the main draw at Flushing Meadows; she is one of several exciting products of the Tennis Canada system.
It’s worthwhile to dedicate a few sentences to that system. Tennis Canada is just over a half-decade removed from a structural overhaul of the development system, overseen by an architect of France’s centralized junior program (although it’s a sports model that has had versions all over the world).
The two-track focus – on both mass participation and, separately, nurturing the elite level – has undeniably produced results.
Critics point out there’s a healthy dose of happenstance – one can’t reliably discover talents such as Mr. Raonic and Ms. Bouchard. That may be true, but the approach has real merits.
Indeed, elements of it are being mirrored elsewhere, notably by national and provincial hockey bodies.
So while the U.S. Open wasn’t the crescendo that Canadian fans hoped for, there is much to rejoice about.
And the season is by no means over; there are lucrative end-of-year invitational tournaments to strive for.
More immediately, the next phase of the Davis Cup, which pits Messrs. Raonic, Pospisil and their teammates against Colombia, will kick off in Halifax next week.
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