• By: Keith Whittier

The Future’s Bright—The Future is Red and White

At the beginning of the 2014 season, few would have bet on tennis players Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard becoming massive factors on the men and women’s tours respectively. However, while in the past North American tennis has been ruled by the U.S.A., with players such as the Williams Sisters and Andy Roddick atop the rankings, the future of the sport now lies with Canada. Bouchard, a Montreal native, reached the semi-final or better at the first three Grand Slams of the year, with the highlight of this breakout season being losing the Wimbledon final to Czech player Petra Kvitová. Meanwhile Raonic, a Canadian citizen born in what is now Montenegero, reached the quarter-final or better at two Grand Slams, with wins over 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer and Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray this season. Both players achieved their career high rankings this season with Ranoic reaching number 6 in June and Bouchard number 5 in October.

While both players enjoyed their most impressive seasons on tour this year, success has most certainly come quicker for the 20-year-old Bouchard. A relative unknown 18 months ago, Bouchard finished the 2013 season at the respectably rank of 32 in the world. However, after reaching the semi-final at the Australian Open in January, Bouchard ripped through the first half of the 2014 season—reaching the semi-final of the French Open in May, losing to eventual champion Maria Sharapova, and winning her maiden WTA title in Nurnberger. However, after reaching the Wimbledon Final in June, Bouchard struggled under the newfound exposure her compact and powerful game and billboard ready looks had created. With the tennis press likening her to a young Maria Sharapova and her ranking sharply ascending, Bouchard crumbled under the expectations of her home crowd at a tournament in Montreal, bombing out in the second round to lowly ranked American player Shelby Rogers. Since this crushing defeat Bouchard has struggled to string together successive good results, however such a blip for a player who has found success so quickly is not uncommon and Eugenie will still end the year comfortably in the top 10. A position she will regularly inhabit for years to come, if she can regain her sparkling form from earlier in the year.

Raonic, on the other hand, first came to the attention of tennis fans when he reached consecrative ATP finals in February 2011. Since then Raonic, now 23-years-old has used his big serve and powerful forehand to reach 11 more finals, winning six. However, before this season Raonic had suffered from erratic form, failing to reach the quarter-final of a Grand Slam event despite having several impressive wins over higher-ranked players. Commentators sighted Raonic’s slow movement and questionable shot selection as a partial reason for his erratic results and inability to preform at his best on the world’s biggest stages. The turning point came when Raonic hired tactical expert, and former top 10 player, Ivan Ljubi?i? in 2013. Under Ljubi?i?’s guidance, Raonic streamlined his game, ending points quickly using his deadly forehand and improved volley. Moreover Raonic, unlike Bouchard, finished the 2014 season with successive good results at big events, including the final of the Paris Masters, and managed to qualify for the year-end championships in London.

While both players are still perfecting their games, the raw talent between them is undeniable. The past may have belonged to the U.S.A., and the present is still uncertain, but the future it appears will be all about Canada.