Hopes are High for Canadians Down Under

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic leads the Canadian charge in Oz

Four Canadians will be part of the main draw of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Not only are they competing in the first Grand Slam of the new tennis season, but they also have aspirations of winning a few rounds and ultimately getting a shot at a spot in the second week Down Under.

After reaching the Round of 16 at the Australian Open last year, his best Grand Slam result, world no. 25 Milos Raonic is being labelled a dark horse by the experts for the title in 2012. Fresh off his second ATP World Tour title in Chennai two weeks ago, a run which included two Top 10 wins over Nicolas Almagro and Janko Tipsarevic, Raonic is poised to make another splash in Melbourne. His draw did him no favours however, as he finds himself on a potential collision course with Andy Roddick in the third round and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. Raonic will begin his Australian Open campaign on Tuesday against crafty lefty Filippo Volandri. It will be the first meeting between the two players.

On the ladies side, one year removed from a heartbreaking loss in the second round to Francesca Schiavone that finished 9-7 in the third set, Rebecca Marino returns to Melbourne a different player and ready to overcome that second round hurdle this time around. The 21-year-old will start on Tuesday against Hungarian Greta Arn. Should Marino get through that match, she would face a tough test going up against either seventeenth seed Dominika Cibulkova or Magdalena Rybarikova, who defeated her in the final at Memphis last March.

Stéphanie Dubois is back after a stress fracture in her foot put a premature end to her 2011 season. She is appearing in her fourth consecutive Australian Open main draw and is hoping to pick up her first victory when she meets Russia’s Elena Vesnina in the opening round on Tuesday. Aleksandra Wozniak rounds out the Canadian singles contingent Down Under. 2012 is a big year for Wozniak as she tries to regain her 2009 form when she reached a career-high of no. 21 on the WTA rankings. She earned a spot in the main draw following the withdrawal of Timea Bacsinszky and surprisingly, is still winless in main draw matches in Melbourne. Just getting over a bout with bronchitis, Wozniak will open on Tuesday against Shuai Zhang of China.

Australia has not been very kind to Canadians in recent years in terms of tennis results, but be on the lookout for some Canadian flags on the scoreboard during the later rounds, they certainly won’t be there by chance.