Wimbledon, one of the world's biggest tennis tournaments, began on Monday in London, England. Several Canadians are in the event, and they have high hopes of making an impression!
First among them is Leylah Fernandez. The 20-year-old was a finalist at the 2021 US Open, but she has struggled to make a deep run at any of the other three Grand Slams. (The Slams are tennis' four largest tournaments, and include Wimbledon, the US Open, French Open, and Australian Open.)
But on Monday, she got off to a positive start, winning her first round match against Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl by a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Her second round match will happen tomorrow against a very tough customer, France's Caroline Garcia, who is ranked fifth in the world. The pair have already played twice this season, with Garcia winning both times. But maybe it will be third time lucky for Leylah?
Felix stumbles, Denis still on track
Unfortunately for Canadian tennis fans, Felix Auger-Aliassime lost his match yesterday to American Michael Mmoh. He is out of the event. It was his first match since getting injured in May, so no reason for him to panic. But the world's number 12-ranked player will be disappointed given that he has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before and loves playing there.
Another Canadian who loves playing at Wimbledon is Felix's good friend Denis Shapovalov. He was a semifinalist in 2021 and would love to put a shaky first-half of 2023 behind him with a big splash in London.
His first round opponent is Romanian Radu Albot. Though Shapo is the high-ranked player, you never really know in tennis. It is a challenging head-to-head sport where upsets are common!
One last run for Milos
Other Canadians in Wimbledon this year include Carol Zhao (who won three qualifying matches in a row just to get into the main tournament!) and Bianca Andreescu, who is still the country's only ever Grand Slam tournament champion. She won the US Open in 2019, and would she ever like to do it again!
But maybe the most interesting Canadian story in London right now is the return of Milos Raonic. The 32-year-old veteran recently returned to the sport after two years away. Injuries and surgeries made it look as though he would never play the sport again. He told friends and family he was going to retire.
But this year, he had a change of heart. As a way to say thank you to his family for all their sacrifices to give him a career, he wanted to play in the upcoming National Bank Open in his adopted hometown of Toronto one more time. So he worked hard and got back in shape. Last month, he won his first pro match in two years.
Now, he's back at Wimbledon, the site of his biggest success as a tennis player. In 2016, he reached the final there, losing to Scottish great Andy Murray. He ended that year as the world's number three-ranked player, the highest a Canadian has ever reached.
It would be quite a story if Raonic was able to scale a similar height this year. But with one of the fastest serves in the history of men's tennis, anything is possible. Time to hit the court!