As you all read last week, the result of the Brexit vote has left the United Kingdom in a bit of a tizzy. (And if you didn't read about it yet, check out our article right here.) In other words, the whole nation could use a nice distraction. Right on cue, here it is: London, England's Wimbledon, the most famous tennis tournament in the world.
With its grass courts (unlike most other tournaments, the players play on grass), royal boxes (oh, look, the Queen is watching you play...no pressure!), and traditions like all-white uniforms for players, and strawberries and cream for the crowds, Wimbledon is a huge part of British culture. As a Grand Slam, it is one of the four biggest events in world tennis (the other three are the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May, and the U.S. Open in September). All of these tournaments are great in their own way, but there's something magical about Wimbledon. It's just got this thing.
It's also a tournament that is getting a serious injection of Canadian talent, which is a cause for a lot of excitement. Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, and Genie Bouchard are all players to watch this year. How come? Glad you asked!
Canadians who are good at tennis? Really?
If you don't follow tennis much, you'd be forgiven for not thinking it was a big deal to have some Canucks who are good at smacking a wee yellow ball over a net. But this level of success is a pretty recent thing. Raonic and Bouchard have already done better than any male and female singles player in Canadian history. (A singles match is when one player plays against other. Tennis also has doubles matches where pairs of players play against each other.) No Canadian player has ever won a Grand Slam singles title, but Raonic in particular is edging closer and closer all the time. Let's get to know these players as they begin a quest that could see them make Canadian history.
Milos Raonic: The missile
(say MEE-lowsh ROW-nich) The serve is the name given to the shot that starts play. Players serve dozens of time in a match, so having a good serve is pretty important. Raonic has arguably the best serve in all of tennis. His nickname is the missile because his serve is hard, accurate, and super fast. His average serve speed is 219 kph (136 mph). Most tennis players average around 189 kph (117 mph). Having a great serve alone can get you pretty far, but it's still only one part of the sport. Tennis is a game full of different types of shots for different types of situation. Being a great player requires mastering many of them. That's why people are so excited that Raonic has hired American legend John McEnroe as his coach for this year's Wimbledon.
McEnroe won the tournament 3 times in the 1980s. He thinks Raonic can do the same. Ranked number 7 in the world, Raonic is already having the best year of his young career. He's become a smarter, better player, making multiple semi-finals and finals, including winning a tournament in Brisbane by beating Roger Federer (considered the greatest tennis player of all time by many). Will he break through and go all the way here?
Eugenie Bouchard: The comeback
(say yoo-GEE-nee BOO-shahr) Genie is only 22, but she has already broken most female singles records for Canada. In 2014, she appeared almost out of nowhere, reaching the semi-finals in both the Australian and French Opens, then the finals in Wimbledon (where she lost to Petra Kvitova). She was ranked as high as fifth in the world. Then...things started to go sour. She spent the next year-and-a-half losing very early in tournament. Her confidence started to disappear and she changed coaches frequently. She suddenly couldn't seem to do anything right. Then at the U.S. Open in 2015, she slipped in the dressing room and got a concussion.
But in 2016, she has been slowly rebuilding her game. She's winning more regularly, and just recently reunited with Nick Saviano, the man who coached her as a teenager right on through her great successes in 2014. Though no one sees her winning the tournament, many think that playing with her old coach by her side will be a first step in returning to being one of the world's best players.
Vasek Pospisil: The underdog
(say vah-SHEK PAWS-pi-sill) In tennis, singles matches are the main event. So someone like Vasek Pospisil doesn't get the same ink as Raonic and Genie. But unlike those two, Pospisil has already won Wimbledon...as a men's doubles player in 2014 with American partner, Jack Sock. (Fans of the two of them have the best hashtag, too #PospiSock.) The funny thing about that win? It was the first time that the two friends had ever played doubles together! Since then, Pospisock have won many doubles events together and are entered in this year's event as the eighth seed (or eighth-best pair). However, Pospisil is also a very capable singles player, too. In fact, he was a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last summer. In other words, don't be surprised if Vasek is the player who gets farthest of these three. After all, to borrow another hashtag, Anything is Pospisil!