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Bianca Andreescu Gives Canada Even More Hope

Matt Zemek

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Gerry Angus -- USA TODAY Sports

Canadians are waiting, waiting, waiting in the world of sports — chiefly for a Canadian team to finally win the Stanley Cup after 26 years. They are also waiting for a major tennis champion.

Milos Raonic came very close at Wimbledon in 2016 and almost as close on a few other occasions. Eugenie Bouchard, like Raonic, made a Wimbledon final and knocked on the door — loudly — at times. They didn’t quite cross the threshold, however. Both suffered injuries (in Raonic’s case, constantly recurring ones) which halted their progress. They are both entirely capable of playing very good tennis. Raonic can still beat nearly anyone when fit. Bouchard has shown signs early in 2019 of being able to put back the pieces and restore her game. Yet, the idea that either player has a good chance of winning a major carries a lot less conviction than it did a few years ago.

This could lead Canadian sports fans to sink into a depression… but that won’t happen.

The future of Canadian tennis is too bright, because young faces keep emerging as carriers of the torch in the 2020s.

On the men’s side, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are poised to grow into formidable professionals. With patience and poise in pursuit of polishing their power, they could do wondrous things on a tennis court in the 2020s. Unlike Raonic, they have time on their side and have the added advantage of becoming 25 years old when Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will be in their late 30s. Health permitting, the prime of FAA’s career will — like Shapo’s — coexist with the aging out of the Big 3. Raonic paved the way and set an example for the younger Canadian ATP generation, but he came of age at the wrong time. His successors, however, occupy a much more favorable position.

Canada’s wait for men’s tennis glory might end in the coming decade.

On the WTA side, there is also another name to pay attention to — it’s not just a Bouchard march led by Genie’s Army.

Bianca Andreescu made a loud statement at the start of 2019 in the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. A bold run to the final — where a resolute Julia Goerges needed to call forth all her skills to fend off Andreescu in three sets on Sunday — marked the 18-year-old as a player to watch in the coming years.

These insights and articles from Alex MacPherson of WTA Tennis, and Mike McIntyre of the Southpaw Slice Podcast, express why Andreescu’s emergence is so noteworthy and impressive:

The ability to win a match in different ways — with defense, with hitting, or with touch and variety — recalls Sloane Stephens, the woman who generally has more ways to win a point than most of the WTA’s elite players. Andreescu’s touch and feel around the court evoke Anastasija Sevastova’s crafty game, which carried the Latvian to the U.S. Open semifinals and the Beijing final in the latter third of the 2018 season.

Andreescu’s wins over big-name players Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams in Auckland might have gained more global attention this past week, but in many ways, the win over Hsieh Su-Wei in the semifinals might be more instructive as a revealer of what Andreescu can do.

We who cover tennis so often say that we want tennis players to show a capacity to break out of monochromatic baseline hitting and show the ability to play with variety. Andreescu showed that most prominently in the win over Hsieh. We who cover tennis often remark that we want tennis players to prove they can be tactically astute by playing without pace, something which catches opponents off balance and yanks them out of a comfort zone. Andreescu similarly displayed this ability to manipulate pace and not get sucked into conventional rallies if those rallies weren’t serving her interests.

This is an all-court player who — to use Greg Maddux’s famously concise description of the essence of pitching — is able to “locate your fastball and change speeds.”

This Auckland adventure revealed a player who has a lot of tools in the toolbox, many ways to win a point against big-league opponents.

Canadian sports fans will hopefully get to enjoy Andreescu along with FAA and Shapo for 10, 12, or 15 more years.

Canadian sports fans are still waiting for the ultimate breakthroughs in global competitions of all kinds, but Bianca Andreescu has given them one more reason to think that the future will eventually produce that golden moment.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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