Milos Raonic Leads Canadian Tennis into Uncharted Waters

Milos Raonic celebrates at Davis Cup

By Yeshayahu Ginsburg

Canada as a country is not known for their prestigious tennis history. Names like Keith Carpenter, Don Fontana, and Dale Power probably barely register (if that) in the memory of even the most hardcore tennis fans. Mike Belkin’s quarterfinal appearance at the 1968 Australian Championships (which because the Australian Open the following year) remains a Canadian male’s best showing in a Grand Slam singles event. True, Canada has had some success in doubles over the years, but their singles players have been fairly nonexistent.

Of course, Greg Rusedski could have changed all of that. Rusedski, from Montreal, was a Grand Slam finalist and reached a career-high ranking of World #4. However, he switched to representing Great Britain very early in his career. The two tournaments that he won before that switch in 1995 were Canada’s first tour-level titles in the modern era.

Now, though, Canadian tennis is on the rise. Led by phenom Milos Raonic, Canada has reached the semifinals of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1913, its first year competing in the tournament.

Raonic is a strong, consistent player who rides his massive serve through most of his matches. Raonic’s real breakthrough into the tour came in early 2011, but that was sidetracked by a nasty injury caused by slipping on some moist grass at Wimbledon. He has recovered from hip surgery successfully and seems to be in full form now.

Raonic is often critiqued as a one-trick pony. While this is a bit unfair as his baseline and net game are not that bad, they are certainly much weaker than those of the average player around his ranking. It doesn’t seem so likely that Raonic can win a Slam with the current trend of slow courts at all of them, but you can never count him out of a match and he will be in the top 20, and at the top of Canada’s ranking, for the foreseeable future.

Raonic is seen as the leader of the young Canadians, but this is really just a good time for Canadian tennis to be making a breakthrough anyway. Vasek Pospisil is a Challenger-level player who has shown some strong potential. He ranking is currently down at World #141, but he has a lot of talent and can really find his way back into the top 100 and higher if he can start playing consistently again. Jesse Levine (an Ottowa native who switched from the United States to Canada this year) and Frank Dancevic also have had some success on the Challenger tour.

Canada’s biggest hope after Raonic, though, has come in the form of 19-year-old Filip Peliwo. Peliwo reached all 4 Grand Slam juniors finals last year, winning Wimbledon and the US Open. He hasn’t quite yet adjusted to being a full-time professional yet and is losing some futures matches that he probably shouldn’t, but with his talent he won’t stay down for long. Expect him to begin making his name known on the main tour in the near future.

For now, though, Canada is riding Raonic’s serve as far as he can take them. He has certainly given Canadian fans something real and tangible to cheer for, something they haven’t had in a very long time. And there is no reason that Raonic won’t be bringing home titles, leading Davis Cup success, and inspiring the next generation of Canadian fans and young players for years to come.