Canadian tennis stars on the rise

Written by ECA Review

Canada’s status on the world professional tennis stage skyrocketed in Melbourne in January, but Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime still haven’t reached the peak of the mountain.

The two Canadians — virtual kids in the world of professional sports — both made the quarter-finals of 2022’s first tennis major of the season, and while both gamely battled against higher-ranked and more experienced foes, they both limped to the sidelines with only a few hundred thousand dollars bulging out of their pockets to salve the wounds of defeat.

The silverware will have to wait. But it seems inevitable that it won’t be long before baubles from either Melbourne; Paris, where the French Open is played; London, where Wimbledon is staged each July; or New York, site of late summer’s U.S. Open, are being lugged through Canadian customs by either Shapovalov or Auger-Aliassime.

Shapovalov, who was born in Israel to a tennis professional mother, grew up in Greater Toronto (Vaughan) and is only 22 years old, still dealing with immature petulance and brattiness. 

His skill, however, allowed him to breeze through the first three rounds in Melbourne before facing Spanish star and eventual champion Rafael Nadal, now the owner of a record 21 Grand Slam titles, in the quarter-finals. 

After losing the first two sets, Shapovalov won the next two to force a deciding set and while momentum was seemingly on his side, the experience of Nadal won out, sending the Canadian to the sidelines.

The next day, the 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime, seeded ninth, was on the verge of upsetting No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, before faltering in the latter half of the match. 

Auger-Aliassime was up two sets to love before a rain delay slowed the Canadian’s momentum and gave Medvedev the chance to regroup. The Russian eventually prevailed in five sets.

Youth would seem to be on the side of the two Canadians, whose primary opponents on the world stage are all older. 

Nadal is 35; Novak Djokovic, ranked No. 1 in the world but absent at Melbourne due to a Covid-19 controversy, is 34. Medvedev is 26. Other than Italy’s Jannik Sinner, who is 20, the two Canadians are the youngest among the world’s top 20 players.

With the emergence last year of Leylah-Annie Fernandez, who joined Breanna Andreescu among the world’s elite women tennis players, Canada is becoming somewhat of a world power in the sport. 

The Grand Slam breakthrough on the men’s side seems to be inevitable. How about a Wimbledon final featuring Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime? That would certainly have the Canadian flags flapping.

Slap shots

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• From “Tom Brady on his first career unsportsmanlike penalty. ‘So I screamed at the ref to throw the flag, and he did. But I guess I need to be more specific with who he needs to throw the flag on.’”

• Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who recently joined Twitter: “Fantasy football is what guys played after I hit them.”
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•    Janice Hough of, on diva WR Antonio Brown still drawing NFL interest, apparently this time from Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: “It’s all part of the league’s strict superstar policy: ‘17 strikes and you’re out.’ ”

• Steve Simmons of SunMedia: “What’s in a name? The Chicago Bears fired a coach named Matt (Nagy) and a GM named Ryan (Pace) and turned around and hired a coach named Matt (Eberflus) and a GM named Ryan (Poles). There’s no truth to the rumour their next quarterback will be Matt Ryan.”


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by Bruce Penton

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ECA Review