At the beginning of 2011 after the Australian Open, you would have thought that Milos Raonic was the only Canadian singles tennis player on the radar to make a serious run past the 4th round of a major and into the elite part of the tournament – the quarterfinals and beyond. Aleksandra Wozniak almost did it at the 2009 French Open when she made it to the 4th round. Up until Raonic came along, she was thought to be the player with the best chance to make it to the quarters of a major. That was until Eugenie Bouchard came along – seemingly out of nowhere. Funny, that’s how Raonic appeared as well.
While many tennis players have reached the 4th round of a major and it’s a major feather in their cap, saying that you have reached the quarterfinals or the quarters or having a QF after your name is career defining. It’s always mentioned in bios or as a stat that stands out when their name comes up. Until Genie Bouchard did it at the 2014 Australian Open, only 3 other Canadians (all female) have made it to the quarters of a major: Carling Bassett (4 times), Helen Kelesi (twice) and Patricia Hy-Boulais (once). Of course Bassett has the high-water mark of making it the furthest of all: a semi-final appearance at the 1984 U.S. Open.
The upper echelon of men’s pro tennis is a very tough sector to break into. Raonic got to where he is by being consistent for 3 years. His ranking reflects that consistency. He may win the title, make it to the final, the semis or the quarters of mid-level tournaments, but he always seems to make his seeding at the majors. If he’s seeded in the 16 to 9 range, he usually makes it to the 4th round – the round of 16. That, combined with him making his seed at lower tournaments – usually in the 8 to number 1 seeded position – puts him exactly where he should be: 11th in the world. The hard work that put him there is now over. I consider his plateauing at 11th to be the end of the first phase of his career. The next phase will see him making serious inroads into the Top 10.
Genie Bouchard is enjoying the same kind of “Raonic fever” that gripped the tennis world in 2011: a soaring ranking based on her hitting above her weight. This “Genie mania” is exciting because she is going where few Canadian tennis players have gone before and perhaps into uncharted territory. When this phase of her career is over (the same kind that Raonic first enjoyed), she could become the second highest ranked Canadian singles player ever. Based on her current success, that would put her around the Top 10 – right where Raonic is now.
Carling Bassett’s relatively short career is still the benchmark for all Canadian tennis players to beat: semifinals of a major; #8 in the world; 4 appearances in major quarterfinals. The fact that she did all that in the space of 4 years is surprising and at the same time, disappointing because she could have done so much more and made an even bigger impact than she did had she not retired in 1988. Both Raonic and Bouchard have the talent to match these results. Keeping in mind that the top tier of men’s pro tennis is more difficult to crack, Bouchard has the better chance to match and beat Bassett’s accomplishments.
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