WEDNESDAY MAY 24, 2017
 
Blog EGOS & ICONS
MILOS RAONIC RULES (ALMOST)
Milos_Raonic.jpg

In Canada, meaningful tennis triumphs tend to come around a little more often than Halley's Comet, but a little less often than Toronto Maple Leafs playoff appearances. They're not exactly once in a lifetime events, but they're still relatively rare. So in the wake of last weekend's historic Davis Cup victory over Italy, one that put our country into the global tournament's final four for the first time, it's becoming fashionable to herald the dawning of a golden age in Canadian tennis.

There's evidence to suggest that might be true. Beyond the brilliant 22-year-old Milos Raonic, the hard-hitting star whose singles win sealed a date with Serbia in the Davis Cup semis this September, Canadian hopes are high for teenage prospects Filip Peliwo and Eugenie Bouchard, both of whom won junior championships at Wimbledon last summer.

By taking down defending finalist Spain already in this Davis Cup, Canada has shown that anything is possible, no matter how unlikely it may look on paper. Realistically, however, with a daunting road trip to Belgrade and matches against world number one Novak Djokovic looming this fall, you'd have to think Canada's great adventure isn't likely to last much longer.

Indeed, it's worth remembering that recent progress in this event has been aided both by weakened opponents (especially Spain) and a string of home matches that allowed Canadian officials to stage manage court conditions and balls to favour Raonic's preferred power game.

But be that as it may, the fact remains that real waves have been made by these wins, and the ripples they send out are expected to reverberate throughout Canada's junior ranks and provide inspiration to a new cohort of young players. That's the happy fringe benefit of having Davis Cup wins and other successes make headlines in the national media and earn major airtime on sports networks.

The viewing appeal of last weekend's triumph over Italy was greatly enhanced by a healthy dose of drama in Saturday's doubles match, which saw 40-year-old Daniel Nestor team up with 22-year-old Vasek Pospisil to gut out a five-set thriller, winning a 15-13 tiebreaker in the decisive set to put Canada in the driver's seat. For the veteran Nestor, easily the greatest and most decorated player in Canadian history, it was a moment more meaningful than his famous 1992 Davis Cup upset of then world number one Stefan Edberg of Sweden, a match also played in Vancouver.

Nestor has won doubles titles at every major, including one in each of the past five years, two at Wimbledon and three straight at the French Open. But it was his gold medal win at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, alongside Sebastien Lareau, that is arguably the greatest All-Canadian tennis triumph of all time.

Nestor is big part of the past who's still playing an important, valuable role in the present. But the future, undoubtedly, will belong to Raonic. The highest-ranked Canadian singles player in ATP history (No. 13 right now), it's his fortunes that will most shape the state of the sport here, not just in this fall's showdown in Serbia, but at weekly tournaments around the world. And whether there's more Davis Cup glory to come or not, you'd have to say Canadian tennis has never been in better hands than his.

Related >> Talking To Daniel Nestor

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