Milos Raonic won both of his singles matches, including earning the winning point on Sunday, to send Canada into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarter-finals for the first time in the country’s history this weekend after defeating top-ranked Spain 3-2 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.
With Canada entering the Sunday reverse singles with a 2-1 lead following a singles sweep of day one and a doubles loss on day two, Raonic clinched victory for his team with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the fourth rubber. The 22-year-old Canadian was in control from the outset, hitting 22 aces and 55 winners. He saved the one break point he faced and broke Garcia Lopez’s on four occasions, including twice in the final set.
“It’s amazing to do everything we’ve done,” Raonic said. “I’ve been a minor part of it for the past few years consistently and to be able to get the win and have this conversation for the first time, it’s pretty amazing. I’m very proud with how I managed everything and how we pulled through.”
Raonic may be grabbing all of the headlines for his clinching win, but Frank Dancevic is the Canadian hero in the eyes of many after he put forth one of the most impressive performances in the history of Davis Cup en route to dismantling Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to give Canada a commanding 2-0 lead after day one. Dancevic was, to put it mildly, in the zone and put his immense natural talent on full display.
“Just walking out on to the court I had goose bumps, and you know that everyone is behind you and that helps you play through tough situations,” Dancevic said. “The crowd was unbelievable, there were certain times when the match was difficult, and they gave me an edge. They motivated me to refocus on the point and I felt like they also put a little pressure on Granollers because the crowd was so behind me today.”
Playing without their biggest stars, This marks the first time since 2006 that Spain, the Davis Cup runner up in 2012 and champion in 2011, has lost a first round tie in World Group. In their first World Group quarter-final appearance, Canada will face Italy in the quarter-finals at home from April 5-7. Italy defeated Croatia 3-2 in the opening round thanks to a win by Fabio Fognini in the decisive fifth rubber.
“It’s a long process when you’re in group one and you’ve got to battle it out in a lot of places and for a spell there we seemed to play on the road so much,” said team Canada captain Martin Laurendeau, speaking of Canada’s journey into the World Group quarter-finals that began years ago. “I think we had a bit of a window a couple of years ago but still we were down 2-0 to Ecuador in 2011, and from there we just turned it around. We play that tie and the next one away and since then we’ve been in Canada and we’ll do that again in April. We’re happy to be in the quarters but we feel like we can keep on going. We’re riding a good wave right now and we’ve got to make the most of it while it lasts.”
The final total attendance for all three days of the tie is 17, 796, which is a new Canadian Davis Cup record.
By Melissa Boyd
Dec. 3, 2012 — Eugenie Bouchard has been on the Canadian tennis radar for almost as long as she has been swinging a racquet. Labeled early on as the potential ‘next one’ to follow in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, and Aleksandra Wozniak, Bouchard has begun carving her own path to greatness thanks to a breakout season in 2012.
The 18-year-old native of Montreal made history in July when she was crowned girls’ singles and doubles champion at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Bouchard actually won 19 consecutive matches this summer with her Wimbledon triumph sandwiched between titles at the ITF junior event in Roehampton and the $25,000 pro Challenger in Granby.
“Winning Wimbledon was a really tough tourney. It was a junior (event). I had the pressure all week. People expected me to win because I was playing women younger than me. So it was a big mental test and I was really proud that I was able to come through,” said Bouchard in an interview last week with a select group of reporters.
Many in attendance on Court 1 at SW19 were impressed with Bouchard’s poise and maturity in posting a convincing win over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final on one of the biggest stages in tennis. She put her mental toughness on display at the Rogers Cup in Montreal when she out-toughed Shahar Peer, one of the best competitors in the women’s game, to earn her first Top 50 victory.
Perhaps the most impressive stretch of Bouchard’s year came during the Fall indoor season when she put her aggressive style of play on full display, reaching the final at the Saguneay Challenger and the following week winning her first $50,000 Challenger in Toronto. Bouchard suffocated her opponents with her offense-first mentality, losing just a handful of games en route to the title in Toronto and dominating Melanie Oudin in the Saguenay semifinals. The run secured her place in the Australian Open qualifying draw which will be her first Grand Slam as a pro.
“I had great coaches when I was young and they taught me to take the ball on the rise. I think that’s it really important in the women’s game,” said Bouchard. “Of course you want to hit fast, but you want to hit it early as well … Hitting it fast takes time away from your opponent.”
With 2012 now in her rear view mirror and the tennis world at her fingertips, Bouchard is ready to make the transition to becoming a full-time WTA pro in 2013. She is fully aware of the challenges awaiting her if she wants to prove that her 2012 campaign was no fluke.
“The top players in the world have a little something extra,” said Bouchard. “They don’t make mistakes and they don’t give you any free points, you have to earn them.”
Even though her career is just getting started, Bouchard is already turning heads off the court as much as she is impressing on it. Their obvious physical likeness and similar game styles have people drawing comparisons between the Canadian and her idol Maria Sharapova. Not to mention that Bouchard was recently chosen by Sharapova to wear her line of Nike tennis clothing. She is the whole package and her bubbly personality is a hit with fans. Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement surrounding Bouchard and she knows that the onus is now on her to deliver on those expectations and send a message that the future is now.
“There is pressure from everyone around me, but I already put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Bouchard. “It’s nice to know that people think I am going to be good because that’s what I believe too, but I have to focus on what I have to do to become that player.”
TORONTO (November 17, 2012) — Agnieszka Radwanska, Milos Raonic, Andy Roddick and Serena Williams didn’t disappoint the fans who went through the turnstiles on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to watch the second edition of the Sportchek Face-Off.
The exhibition event began with a fun celebrity doubles match pitting Team Canada – Raonic and Radwanska – against Team USA’s Roddick and Williams. The superstar quartet were joined on court by Canadian TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos, Bachelor Canada’s Brad Smith, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, and Adrian Grenier of Entourage fame. The recently retired Roddick joked about finally getting the chance to play alongside his compatriot after many years of campaigning.
“I couldn’t convince Serena (Williams) to play with me when I was actually good, but now that I suck she’s all about it,” Roddick said.
Next up was a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon women’s final between Radwanska and Williams. The Pole, who referred to Williams as a “grass tennis killer”, was able to impose her crafty game on the Canadian indoor hard court, en route to a 6-4, 6-4 win. This was a rare defeat for Williams, who has lost just one Tour match since falling in the opening round at Roland-Garros this spring. Despite winning Wimbledon, an Olympic gold medal, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships in Istanbul, the 31-year-old is focused on looking forward instead of back.
“I’m not a big reflector,” said Williams. “I always feel like I want to do more, I want to improve. Once you start reflecting … you can become really satisfied. For me, I’m always trying to do a bit better. I’ll have more time to reflect after my career.”
The evening concluded with the main event, a confrontation between two of the game’s biggest servers in Raonic and Roddick, who was making his first visit north of the border since 2009. The former World No. 1 put his trademark humor and candor on full display in his return to Canada. He gave the crowd fits of laughter in the second set with his imitations of Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and John McEnroe. In addition to his talents as an entertainer, Roddick, who played his last professional match at the U.S. Open, showed that his tennis skills are still very much in tact defeating Raonic 6-4, 4-6, 10-7. The two players met once on the ATP World Tour, in the final at Memphis in 2011 which Roddick won in three tough sets. The American was full of praise for Canada’s highest-ranked singles player of all time.
“I like his (Raonic) game and I equally like the way he goes about his business,” complimented Roddick. “He’s very diligent and he has the hunger to get better and not be satisfied, which will serve him well.”
For Raonic, being able to host tennis royalty in his hometown for an event like the Face-off is an opportunity to grow tennis in Canada.
“There’s a lot of support, a lot of appreciation and interest in Canadian players, especially during Davis Cup,” Raonic said. “I think the kind of support we’re getting there is really amazing. It’s something we want to keep building up.”
In the first edition of the Face-Off held last November in Toronto, Raonic took on his tennis hero Pete Sampras.
By Melissa Boyd
TORONTO (November 16, 2012) — Two days after launching his foundation to support disadvantaged children, Milos Raonic hosted his first fundraising event, the Raonic Race for Kids, at the Toronto Lawn and Tennis Club with the help of a few Toronto celebrities and tennis stars.
A total of ten teams raised money to participate in the inaugural race and each drafted an honorary celebrity captain to join their squad, choosing from the likes of Raonic, junior Wimbledon champion Eugenie Bouchard, Daniel Nestor, former NHL player Brad Marsh, and Canadian Football League legend Damon Allen. “Romano’s Racers” raised the most money through their fundraising efforts and were rewarded by having Raonic as their captain.
Teams competed in eleven three-minute challenges that tested both their physical and intellectual abilities including mini-putt, ping-pong, and making a puzzle. Creative costumes, a theme song, and an original name characterized each team.
The highlight of the evening came when Andy Roddick and Serena Williams made a surprise appearance to present prizes and a trophy to the highest scoring team. The winning team was “The Aces” captained by Toronto television personality Carson Arthur. The American super duo also joined Raonic for a Q and A session which covered topics like the trio’s big serves, trash-talking, and what Roddick has been up to since retiring from the game at the U.S. Open this year.
The first edition of the Raonic Race for Kids raised just over $160,000 which will be put towards the Milos Raonic Foundation and Tennis Canada’s “Let’s Make Tennis Matter for Kids” campaign. The Raonic foundation will create and support initiatives to reduce economic, physical, and other barriers that may prevent disadvantaged children from becoming healthy, productive members of society.
“Tennis has had a profound impact on my life in so many positive ways,” Raonic said. “Opportunities that were available to me as I grew up are not always as accessible to other children and youth and in many cases this is often due to circumstances that are completely beyond their control.”
Raonic, Roddick, Williams, and Agnieszka Radwanska will take part in the Sport Chek Face-off tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
By Melissa Boyd
Novak Djokovic followed up his historic 2011 season with another stellar campaign in 2012 which he capped on Monday with a 7-6(6), 7-5 victory over Roger Federer to capture his second title at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London and finish as the World No. 1 for the second consecutive year.
In a fitting season finale between the top two players in the world, Djokovic and Federer both had moments of brilliance throughout the tightly contested affair including a brilliant backhand down the line winner from the Serbian on match point. The Swiss, who was looking for a record seventh title in eight final appearances at the Final Showdown, led by a break in both sets and appeared to be on his way to a comfortable win. However, Djokovic once again showcased his trademark resiliency and mental toughness to earn a straight sets triumph.
With his 13th career victory over Federer, Djokovic collects his sixth title of the season as well as his ATP-leading 75th match win. He also appeared in 11 finals this year at 14 of the top events on Tour and went undefeated for the first time at the Final Showdown which warranted him a $1,760,000 winner’s cheque and a 2,000 point lead over Federer in the world rankings.
This concludes another memorable season on the ATP World Tour. Just when it seemed like they couldn’t raise the excellence bar any higher, the “big four” of men’s tennis once again out did themselves. Despite coming up short in London, Federer added to his legendary legacy and proved that age is just a number, reviving his career with one his best seasons at the age of 31. He won his 17th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, an Olympic silver medal, and broke Pete Sampras’ record for number of weeks at no. 1, a milestone many felt was out of his reach. Andy Murray finally broke through in 2012, re-wrote the British tennis history books, and took the proverbial monkey off his back. He became the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles title when he was crowned champion at the U.S. Open. The Scot also won the Olympic gold medal on his home court in London. Rafael Nadal may have only played the first half of the year, but the Spaniard still broke Bjorn Borg’s record by winning his seventh Roland-Garros crown. The game will be that much better when he returns healthy and rejuvenated in 2013. The “big four” won 14 of the 15 biggest tournaments this season with the exception being world no. 5 David Ferrer capturing his maiden Masters 1000 title in Paris. Add in names like Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic, and Kei Nishikori and 2012 will be remembered as unforgettable.
With so much excitement surrounding 2013 before the dust even has time to settle on the season that was, the good news for tennis fans is that the Australian Open is only 50 days away.
By Melissa Boyd
Tennis Canada has unveiled the official player acceptance lists for the 2012 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal and Toronto. This year, 59 of the Top 60 players in the world will be descending upon Canada, including both current world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and defending Rogers Cup champion Novak Djokovic. The Top 35 men of the ATP World Tour will play at Rexall Centre in Toronto from August 4-12, while 24 of the Top 25 women of the WTA will compete August 4-13 at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal.
“We are thrilled to welcome back all the best male players in the world to Toronto,” said Toronto Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale. “The depth in the men’s game makes for riveting storylines and unparalleled rivalries and we look forward to watching all the action up-close and personal when the players hit the courts in Toronto.”
“We are very pleased to announce that 24 of the Top 25 players in the world will be in Montreal this year,” said Rogers Cup Montreal tournament director Eugène Lapierre. “Our list shows that the Rogers Cup continues to be one of the most important and appreciated tournaments on the tennis calendar, one that the ladies don’t want to miss.”
Other past champions expected at the tournaments include seven-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal, 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, two-time Rogers Cup titlist Andy Murray, and former world No. 1 players Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic. Joining them will be last year’s Rogers Cup finalist and US Open champion Sam Stosur, Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and home-grown Canadian hero Milos Raonic.
“I think that Rogers Cup in both Montreal and Toronto do a tremendous job in organizing the event and it’s one of the best [Masters] 1000 events that we have in the world of tennis,” said Djokovic. “Every player enjoys playing there. I’m really looking forward to coming there and playing my best tennis.”
For the second year, the two internationally-recognized Rogers Cup events will be staged during the same week making them “virtually combined”. As with last year, all necessary elements will be in place to ensure that spectators, journalists and players are able to interact across venues.
New for 2012, both draws will consist of 48 players with the Top 16 seeds receiving first-round byes. Main draw action in Montreal will begin one day later than usual on Tuesday, August 7 with the women’s final taking place in the evening on Monday, August 13. An evening final is also scheduled in Toronto for the first time ever on Sunday, August 12 with doubles starting at 5 p.m. and singles at 7 p.m.
The draws in each city will be completed with the addition of qualifiers, tournament wildcards and Tour special exemptions. These entrants will be announced at a later date.
With the smaller draw size, qualifying weekend at both tournaments will be extremely competitive with fan favourites such as Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Marcos Baghdatis and Shahar Peer all possibilities based on their ranking to be part of the group fighting for a spot into the main draw. Entry to the grounds during qualifying is free for spectators both in Montreal and Toronto.
Tickets for Rogers Cup presented by National Bank start as low as $20. Session seats, group offers, packages and executive suite opportunities are still available. Inventory for championship weekend is limited. For more information and to purchase tickets visit rogerscup.com or call 1-877-2TENNIS (Toronto) or 1-855-TENNIS-0 (Montreal).
By Melissa Boyd
Tennis Canada has announced the four players nominated for selection to the Canadian Olympic Team for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil, Milos Raonic, and Aleksandra Wozniak will represent Canada in London. Raonic and Wozniak will play singles while Nestor and Pospisil will team up for doubles.
In singles, the Top 56 players in the world as of the June 11 rankings deadline receive direct entry into the tennis event provided they meet all other requirements set out for qualification. Raonic sits at No. 21 in the world while Wozniak’s third round appearance at the French Open lifted her to the exact cut-off point of No. 56. It will be the first Olympic Games for both.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming since I’m a little girl, and my dream came true today,” Wozniak said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere than playing in the Grand Slams and on the WTA Tour, something where you’ll be with the best athletes around the world in all different sports”.
For the doubles event, each of the Top 10 players receives direct entry with a compatriot of their choice. As the No. 1 doubles player in the world, Nestor has elected to play with first-time Olympic hopeful Pospisil. The duo holds a 2-0 Davis Cup record, including a pivotal win against Grand Slam champions Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram during Canada’s World Group play-off versus Israel last September.
London will represent the fifth consecutive time Nestor has represented Canada at the Olympic Games. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he won gold with partner Sebastien Lareau marking the first, and only, tennis medal in Canadian history.
“I’m very proud to be in a position where I can represent my country and hopefully bring back another medal,” said Nestor. “It was quite a special feat winning Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and with the growth of tennis in our country, we all can have a chance to make Canada proud.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will announce the full official list of entries on June 28 which will include the ITF places in singles and doubles. Additional nominations for players who did not make the rankings cut-off can be submitted to the ITF to be considered for ITF places.
“Congratulations to these four tennis players on joining the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” said 2012 Team Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury. “I know you will give your everything to make Canadian fans proud in London.”
By Melissa Boyd
Four years ago many wondered if she would ever play again and when she did, next to no one believed she could taste the sweetest victory of her career, the one that she earned on the famed red clay courts at Roland-Garros. In the space of three days, Maria Sharapova became World No. 1, captured her first French Open title, completed the career Grand Slam and wrote another page in the tennis history books.
People may have doubted Sharapova’s ability to win a Grand Slam after suffering a potentially career threatening shoulder injury in 2008, but Sharapova herself never stopped believing through all of the trials and tribulations of her comeback. It all came together for her on the clay in 2012, a surface on which she once famously described herself as being a “cow on ice”. Remarkably, Sharapova went undefeated on red clay this year, a streak which culminated with her fourth Grand Slam title in Paris following a 6-3, 6-2 over first time Major finalist Sara Errani of Italy.
“I had so many outs in my career. I could have said, I don’t need this. I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have Grand Slams,” Sharapova said. “But, when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it’s freezing outside, when you know that it can be the most difficult day, when nothing is working, when you feel like the belief sometimes isn’t there from the outside world, and you seem so small.”
The 25-year-old Russian is the tenth woman to complete the career Grand Slam joining the esteemed ranks of Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Shirley Fry, Steffi Graf, Doris Hart, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams. She is the first player to accomplish the feat having won only one title at each of the four events. Sharapova’s performance at Roland-Garros will propel her to a whole new category of greatness, the one that is reserved for the best players of all-time.
Beyond the numbers and the significance of such a monumental triumph, it’s how Sharapova found her way back to the pinnacle of her sport that is perhaps most impressive. She overcame bad losses, poor form and a less than reliable serve. She has since improved her movement, rediscovered her lethal groundstrokes and most importantly, found her confidence. The Sharapova that won her first French Open title is a better player than the Sharapova who won her first three Grand Slam crowns.
Beneath Sharapova’s fame, fortune and steely exterior, lies the heart of a true champion and the exuberance of a young woman who is realizing her dreams. She is a fierce competitor who takes her tennis very seriously and when she fell to her knees and cried tears of joys into the French ‘terre battue’ after Errani’s shot went into the net on match point, she showed the world just how much the greatest moment of her tennis life meant to her.
“It’s the most incredible feeling. I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy. I’ve worked so hard for this,” Sharapova said. “It took a lot to get to this stage and even more to win it. There are so many tough days where you feel like giving up, but you don’t. It’s been such a journey to get to this stage again.”
By Melissa Boyd
While play on the women’s side during week one of Roland-Garros has not been of the highest quality, the drama that the ladies have produced over the first eight days in Paris has more than made up for it. For those just tuning in, it would appear as though a tornado has run through the draw, sparing just a handful of seeds along its destructive path.
When pre-tournament favourite Serena Williams was reduced to tears en route to a stunning first round defeat at the hands on an inspired Virginie Razzano, the upset flood gates were opened and several title favourites were shown the door earlier than anticipated. Most notably, a cranky World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was knocked out on Sunday by Dominika Cibulkova to ensure that there will be a second different Grand Slam champion in 2012. The Slovakian exorcised some demons with the victory after failing to close her last two matches against Azarenka despite holding sizable leads on both occasions. Meanwhile, third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska mustered just three games in bowing out to 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
While the top eight seeds are all still in title contention on the men’s side, only four of the top eight ladies remain. The top half of the draw has been particularly decimated. Case and point, one of Cibulkova, Sara Errani, Angelqiue Kerber or Samantha Stosur will be a Roland-Garros finalist this year. Stosur played for the title in 2010 and won her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open last summer. The other three are relatively inexperienced when it comes to the business end of Majors, but have quietly built impressive career resumes. With her ball striking, Cibulkova can contend with anyone, Errani has won three clay court titles this season alone and Kerber, the newest member of the WTA’s Top 10, reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2011.
The bottom half of the women’s draw features the new tournament favourite as well as the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champions. A gaping hole was left in the Maria Sharapova’s section of the draw following Williams’ unexpected exit and Caroline Wozniacki’s third round loss to Kaia Kanepi. The Russian, who could take over as the new World No. 1 if she reaches the final in Paris, has been a woman on a mission through three rounds, dropping a mere five games as she attempts to complete her career Grand Slam. It remains to be seen whether the added pressure of being the favourite will get to Sharapova as she moves closer to the business end of the tournament, but so far she has been lights out. Na Li and Petra Kvitova are slated to meet in the quarter-finals and could provide some serious for opposition for Sharapova in the semifinals, especially considering her record against both players.
There are still many stories to be told as Roland-Garros approaches its climax and if week one of is any indication, prepare to brace for the unexpected.