If Canada’s top tennis players were investments, they would attract very different sorts of backers.
Félix Auger-Aliassime is a future blue chip. Thus far, the dividends are modest, but you have a good feeling your money is safe there for a long time. Doesn’t make rash decisions. Good corporate culture. Excellent executive team.
That makes Denis Shapovalov crypto. The highs are pretty high, but it is impossible to explain to other people how it works or why you believe in it.
Shapovalov arrived in London riding his own personal bear market – six straight losses in a row. Auger-Aliassime came in on a wave of gushing reviews from the tennis press. They’re always anxious to get ahead of the next big thing (and nearly as often wrong).
As a Canadian, I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.
Auger-Aliassime faced Franco-American Maxime Cressy. Cressy is the human result of a NASA-ESA co-production designed to build the next space arm – one that operates at high shear under Earth gravity. He serves a ball so heavy that they should inspect the court afterward for cracks.
Auger-Aliassime’s finesse game does not match up well with that sort of raw power, though great players find a way. Auger-Aliassime did not find a way. After four painfully long sets, he had not once broken Cressy.
One of Auger-Aliassime’s many charms is his self-containment. We used to say admiringly that an athlete wore his or her heart on their sleeve. Nowadays, you wish more of them did a bit less emoting. Auger-Aliassime is a throwback in that regard. But as he left the court, he popped his eyebrows as if to say, ‘Wow.’
“I just need to face the reality,” he said afterward, whilst lavishly praising Cressy. “There is nothing I can do any more, even though of course I had higher ambitions for this tournament.”
Auger-Aliassime is still young (21). But with the emergence of players like 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud, he is not as new and shiny as he once seemed. In tennis, the future comes at you from behind.
At the same time Auger-Aliassime was in the middle of it, Shapovalov was doing the same thing over on Court 16. That’s the one most famous for being the point at which you turn left to get into Centre Court. It’s what a public recreation centre might look like if it had a six-figure landscaping budget.
Shapovalov came into Wimbledon in a strange dual role. He’s a defending semi-finalist here, while also being in terminal career decline. At least, that’s how it seemed.
Some players warm up for Wimbledon. Shapovalov spent two months cooling down.
Because of Shapovalov’s history, he doesn’t get Auger-Alissime’s benefit of the doubt when things go into a dip. He’s well known for being an up-and-down tennis player, and nearly as well known for not handling the downs well.
The most famous meltdown is a ball inadvertently smashed into the face of an official. The latest one that seeped outside the bounds of the sports page into general conversation was a profane outburst at an Italian crowd a month ago.
Tennis has a long history of players who use outbursts strategically. When his red mist descends, Shapovalov does not seem in control.
“Whether [getting angry] works good for me or not, it’s just the person that I am,” Shapovalov said. “It’s something that I don’t think I’m going to change.”
When you consider that he’s still making a ton of money, that is a viable point of view. But the result of that sort of thinking is that people watch Shapovalov like ghouls watch car races – for the crashes. Would he keep it together on Day 1 if things didn’t go his way?
For now, yes. Shapovalov dropped two of the first three sets, then reeled his opponent, Arthur Rinderknech, back in.
It went to five, but even in the final game Shapovalov was bouncing around like he might need to jog off some energy later. When it ended, he turned his head upward and shouted like he was filming a Nike commercial. Then he thanked the umpire twice, and stopped to take every selfie he was asked for (three of them). Someone’s either had some remedial media training or a good talking-to.
To fully torture this Bay Street analogy, that leaves Bianca Andreescu. She is Shopify – had a big bump in 2019, but since then the car’s spent more time in the shop than on the road. Still, great business if you can figure out exactly what it’s meant to be doing.
Andreescu is in the midst of another comeback attempt from injury. On Tuesday, she spanked a lightly regarded American opponent and had the sense not to celebrate it beyond a fist pump. She’s working to a higher goal than first-round moral victories.
Afterward, she wanted to talk wellness more than she wanted to talk tennis odds.
“I try to leave an hour a day, like, to do the things I love,” Andreescu said.
“I love watching things on Netflix.”
Wow, me too. Now, the next time I’m being yelled at to get off the couch, I know that I’m not wasting my life. I’m self-caring.
So that’s your Canadian tennis report at the bell. Not a terrible day at the London markets, but a long way from a good one. Canada’s preferred tennis hope is going to have to try again in New York in two months time. The two remaining contenders have to get through Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek to make real noise here.
If it’s a bit disappointing, that must mean Canada has one on those good sports problems. We are now so good at tennis that we can afford to start handicapping our favourites between realistic contenders and not-totally-out-of-left-field long shots.
All we need now is a sure thing.