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Canada's Milos Raonic celebrates after defeating Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka at the 2016 Australian Open on January 25, 2016.

WILLIAM WEST/AFP / Getty Images

Milos Raonic's rise in world rankings and a foursome of promising juniors has the people charged with developing Canadian tennis talent in a cheery mood.

"We're very proud of their performance this year," Tennis Canada vice-president Louis Borfiga said Tuesday.

While there is disappointment in the women's side, where Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., and Francoise Abanda of Montreal have been treading water, Raonic and junior boys Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, Denis Shapovalov of Thornhill, Ont. and Benjamin Sigouin of Vancouver were on a roll in 2016.

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Raonic, of Thornhill, emerged from the year — and five meetings with world No. 1 Andy Murray — with the third overall ranking, a career high and the best ever for a Canadian. The towering right-hander also became the first Canadian male to reach a grand slam final when he lost to Murray at Wimbledon in June.

Borfiga is convinced Raonic, who will turn 26 on Dec. 27, will win a grand slam event in the next two years.

"He's improving day after day," said Borfiga. "He has ambition and he has a good team behind him with (coach) Riccardo Piatti.

"That's why, when you look at the year he had, he's so close to Murray and (Novak) Djokovic. And he's only 25, while the other players are 30 or 31. That's why he has a good chance to win a grand slam."

Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau said Raonic has become a more complete player, with more than just a big serve.

"He's a big boy and he moves around the court very well," said Laurendeau. "His last match against Murray, he won more nine-shot-plus rallies than Murray did.

"That's a tribute to how he's improved his movement, which was not his forte. He's improved his backhand and volleys and, especially, his return of service. That's why he's able to break a lot more. You see how guys improve their game through their 20s, so I think there are a lot better things to come from him for sure."

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It was not a strong season for Canada's second best pro Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver, who slipped to the 133rd ranking, but Peter Polansky of North York, Ont. (135th) and Steven Diez of Toronto (166th) reached career highs.

And 43-year-old Daniel Nestor of Toronto reached the Australian Open final with partner Radek Stepanek.

The juniors had a brilliant season.

Shapovalov won the Wimbledon boys singles title and reached the doubles final with Auger-Aliassime, then won his first three pro titles in Futures events as well as upsetting Australian star Nick Kyrgios at the Rogers Cup.

Auger-Aliassime won the U.S. Open junior title after losing in the French Open boys final, while Sigouin jumped to 11th in world junior rankings.

"Not many countries have three top 10 juniors in one year," said Laurendeau. "The juniors is one thing, because we saw with Filip Peliwo (the two-time 2012 junior grand slam champ now ranked 388th), who is struggling to make the transition, but it increases the odds.

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"Pro rata, we may be the most productive federation in the world, when you look at the boys and girls and how many top 10s we've had for so many years, winning grand slam titles and finals. It gives us depth."

Canada also kept its spot in the prestigious World Group in Davis Cup play for a sixth straight year. Next up is a tie against the British team led by Murray Feb. 3-5 in Ottawa.

Laurendeau rates Canada's chances at 50-50.

"We play at home — that's a big factor," said Laurendeau. "Their doubles will be good, probably the two Murrays (Andy and Jamie).

"It's a tough task, but this is what we train for. We live for these moments. Sure, we enjoy beating Chile and teams like that, but we enjoy taking on France and the other top countries. That's what gets the blood going in the guys."

On the women's side, 16-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Toronto rose to ninth in junior rankings thanks to reaching the U.S. Open junior semifinals and she got her first pro wins in singles and doubles in Gatineau, Que.

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It was not such a strong season for the women's team overall, however.

Bouchard, a top-10 player in 2014, reached two tournament finals but ended the year ranked 46th. Francoise Abanda of Montreal, despite evident talent, languished at 172nd.

"I thought (Bouchard) would have a better ranking," said Borfiga. "With Francoise, we're always hoping she'll have a better ranking but she's young.

"Eugenie is working very hard. I'm optimistic for her."

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