Last summer, in the midst of COVID restrictions, Canadian tennis was having a major breakthrough at the biggest tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon.
Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime stampeded through the 2021 event, reaching the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively. And though both fell short of the ultimate prize, they are both so young with full careers ahead of them. Their futures are bright!
Starting today, they're getting another shot at glory. Like many things in the world, Wimbledon 2022 is looking more and more like itself after years of lockdowns. But while these and other Canadians are eager to make an impact, not everyone is welcome at this year's tournament. And it's really shaking things up.
We'll get to that, but let's start with how Canada is involved.
The Felix and Denis Show
Even since they arrived as teenage phenoms, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov have been a pair. Not only are they both really talented young Canadian players, each with a chance to be the best their country has ever produced, they are best friends off the court, too. Yay!
But these next two weeks are all about what happens on the court, so you can expect them to be very focused. Both are ranked Top 20 in the world, with Felix seeded (placed) No. 6 at the tournament and playing quite well in recent months. Reaching last year's heights will be a real challenge, but there is no reason to believe that they can't get there ... and beyond! If one of them does, he could become the first Canadian man to win a Grand Slam (one of the four top tournaments in tennis).
Can Bianca climb back?
While Felix and Denis are both looking to become the first Canadian man to win a Slam, there's one woman from Canada who has already done it. And she's at Wimbledon, too.
Of course, we are talking about Bianca Andreescu. Just before COVID, she was a sensation, smashing her way through 2019 to rise from ranked outside the Top 100 to winning the US Open crown that September. She was primed to become one of the best players in the world. But that year-long sprint to glory took its toll.
Since then, she has been struggling with injuries and trying to get her career back on track. Last week, she reached her first tournament final in many months. And even though she lost, it is a great sign that she might be getting back to her best self as Wimbledon begins. She'll need to be: despite having some much success in her past, she has yet to win a single match at any Wimbledon. This year would be a great time to start!
Russian and Belarusian players banned
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the organizers at Wimbledon have made the decision to ban players from that country, as well as from neighbouring Belarus, a country that is aiding Russia in its attacks. (For an explainer on this conflict, please go here.)
In tennis, this means that many of the world's best players will not be at the tournament, including World No. 8 Andrey Rublev and the world's top-ranked men's player, Daniil Medvedev. Though such bans have been applauded by many, it is causing some controversy.
The ATP and WTA (which run the men's and women's tennis tours, or leagues) feel that individual athletes do not represent the actions of their governments. They have allowed Russians and Belarusians to play in most other tournaments. And they have decided that none of the results at Wimbledon will count toward how players are ranked internationally. (This is a big deal as the results at Grand Slams usually count for more points than those won at other tournaments.)
This power struggle between a major tournament and sports leagues is an example of how politics and sports can sometimes come in conflict with one another. And it is a situation that is likely to continue being an issue as the next Grand Slam—the US Open—approaches in September.