Cana­dian sto­ry­lines down un­der

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - GRE­GORY STRONG

There are myr­iad Cana­dian sto­ry­lines as the tennis sea­son kicks into high gear Mon­day at the first Grand Slam of the sea­son — the Aus­tralian Open — at Melbourne Park.

Mi­los Raonic and De­nis Shapo­valov are both ranked in the top 30 and Bianca An­dreescu seems ready to break out. Eu­ge­nie Bouchard looks re­ju­ve­nated and Gabriela Dabrowski is a threat to win any dou­bles event she en­ters.

“What’s great here is that for a change we’re not just look­ing at one or two ath­letes and cross­ing our fin­gers that they con­tinue to ad­vance,” said Tennis Canada pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Michael Downey.

While not in the main draw in Melbourne, Mon­treal’s Felix Auger­Alias­sime is one of the sport’s top young prospects and Van­cou­ver’s Re­becca Marino is look­ing to build off a solid come­back sea­son.

In­jured Van­cou­ver player Vasek Pospisil is con­fi­dent he can get back in the top 50 and Peter Polan­sky of Thorn­hill, Ont., is hov­er­ing just out­side the top 100.

“At the end of next year, you could have six, seven, eight Cana­di­ans in the top 100 in sin­gles,” Downey said. “That is knock­ing on the door of be­ing a lead­ing tennis na­tion which is ide­ally what we want Cana­dian tennis to be.”

Raonic, also from Thorn­hill, is the No. 16 seed in Melbourne and should get a stiff test in his opener against Aus­tralian Nick Kyr­gios. They have split six pre­vi­ous matchups.

Shapo­valov, from Rich­mond Hill, Ont., lost his sea­son de­but ear­lier this week in Auckland. The No. 25 seed will open against Pablo An­du­jar of Spain.

Bouchard, the world No. 79, re­ceived a di­rect en­try into the women’s main draw while An­dreescu won three qual­i­fy­ing matches to get her spot. Both play­ers are com­ing off im­pres­sive show­ings at the ASB Clas­sic.

The 18-year-old An­dreescu stunned two for­mer world No. 1s en route to her first ca­reer ap­pear­ance in a WTA Tour fi­nal. After a gru­elling run of eight matches in nine days, she caught a break in Melbourne when two of her op­po­nents re­tired early due to in­jury.

An­dreescu, from Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., gen­er­ated plenty of buzz last week after victories over big names like Caro­line Woz­ni­acki and Venus Wil­liams. She said she’s ready for the brighter spot­light.

“There’s al­ways ex­pec­ta­tions. I just try to give my best ev­ery match,” she told The As­so­ci­ated Press after a 6-0, 4-1 win Fri­day over Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Repub­lic. “If I do that, I’m sat­is­fied.”

Bouchard is com­ing off a quar­ter­fi­nal ap­pear­ance in sin­gles play and her first ca­reer WTA dou­bles ti­tle with Amer­i­can Sofia Kenin.

“She’s fought her way back from ba­si­cally top 200 to where she sits today at (No. 79),” Downey said of Bouchard, a for­mer world No. 5. “She’s clearly back in the driver’s seat. She’s com­mit­ted. But I think it’s great that Bianca is go­ing to join her (in the top 100) soon.”

Bouchard kicked off her stellar 2014 sea­son with a semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance in Melbourne. She reached the fi­nal four at the French Open that year and made it to the Wimbledon fi­nal.

The West­mount, Que., na­tive made it to the Aus­tralian Open quar­ter­fi­nals in 2015 but has strug­gled with her game in re­cent sea­sons.

“She was re­ally young,” said Cana­dian women’s head coach Syl­vain Bruneau. “She had a lot of things to han­dle and deal with. I think she’s got ex­pe­ri­ence and more wis­dom. She’s slow­ing it down ... she’s only 24.

“We need to be care­ful if some­one has a cou­ple of tough sea­sons, to not count them out be­cause she has all the tools to come back re­ally high in the rank­ing.”

Wild-card op­po­nents await both Cana­di­ans in the women’s draw. Bouchard will take on world No. 129 Shuai Peng of China while An­dreescu meets 199th-ranked Amer­i­can Whit­ney Osuigwe.

The Aus­tralian Open dou­bles draws have yet to be re­leased.

Dabrowski, from Ot­tawa, won three women’s dou­bles ti­tles last sea­son and is ranked 10th in the world. She also won the Aus­tralian Open mixed dou­bles ti­tle last year with Croa­tia’s Mate Pavic.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

De­nis Shapo­valov re­turns a ball to Croa­tia’s Marin Cilic dur­ing the Swiss In­doors tennis tour­na­ment on Oct. 22. There are myr­iad Cana­dian sto­ry­lines as the tennis sea­son kicks into high gear Mon­day at the first Grand Slam of the sea­son, the Aus­tralian Open.

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