By Rob Ficiur
Canadian Tennis experienced three firsts at the Wimbledon Tournament this week.
For most of my sporting life, tennis has been something ignored by the main
stream media. However, when Canadians began reaching new heights at
Wimbledon, one would think that tennis had become the summer version of
1. On Friday Milos Ranoic became the first man to make it to the
semi-finals of a major tournament in over 100 years. The 8th ranked player
in the world lost to fourth ranked Roger Federer in the semi-finals. Four
years ago (July 2010) Ranoic was ranked 278th in Men’s singles tennis (and
448th in doubles.) Since then he has steadily risen in the world’s
rankings: July 2011 (26th) July 2012 (24th) July 2013 (13th) and now in
July 2014(after his Wimbledon showing) Ranoic will rank 6th in the world.
Along the way Ranoic has won five titles, and now progressed farther than
any Canadian male tennis player in over 100 years.
How far will Milos Ranoic go? 11 months ago he became emotional when he
found out he had moved up to 10th in world ranking. This week, when he lost
to semi-final, he was not happy with his play in the semi-final. Federer
took advantage of every Ranoic error and Milos had no response. Being
unhappy with a career best performance shows how determined Milos is
determined to take his game to the next level.
2. Canadian Eugenie Bouchard made it to the Women’s Final at Wimbledon;
again a Canadian record. Her current 13th place ranking is amazing compared
to where she was four years ago. Her year-end rankings have been: 2011
(302nd); 2012 (144th)and 2013(32nd). The day before the Wimbledon final
she probably saw more reporters than she had in her entire career. While
many were applauding her great performance, Eugenie not happy to simply get
to the final. She said “I am here to win.That is what I expect.”
3. In the doubles competition, away from the main media circus, Canada had
one more Wimbledon surprise. Vancouver native Vasek Pospisil and his
American partner, Jack Sock claimed the men’s double’s championship. This
was the first time the pair had played together – so their rise to the top
was not as predictable as the Bouchard and Ranoic singles showing. Vasek’s
doubles title made him the second Canadian to win in that tournament at
Wimbledon. Canada’s Daniel Nestor won two Doubles Titles at Wimbledon, in
2009 and 2008.
Remembering our First Canadian Tennis Star – This week was not the first
week that Canadians played in the Wimbledon semi-finals. Back in 1908,
Bobby Powell made it all the way to the Wimbledon men’s semi-finals. Powell
led Canada’s Olympic team in the 1908 games. He was Canada’s best tennis
player for nearly a decade. In 1914, when World War I broke out, Bobby
Powell enlisted to serve his country. He died in 1917 in the Battle of Vimy.
Until this week Bobby Powell’s tennis legacy was largely forgotten; but
thanks to the internet articles we can remember one of Canada’s early sports
heroes, who sacrificed for his country.
What next for Canadian tennis?
1. Fans follow winners – In team and individual sports fans follow winners.
Now that Bouchard and Ranoic have been in the media spot light can they
build on it? If they continue to do well (even if they are not number one)
fans and media will follow them. The excitement that this can bring,
especially when the tournaments are in Canada,(like next month) will build
on itself over time.
2. Avoid the Florida Panthers syndrome. In 1996 the Florida Panthers set
an NHL record by reaching the Stanley Cup final in only their third year of
existence. They were on the rise and more great things were coming, right?
Since then the Florida Panthers have missed the playoffs twelve of the last
thirteen years;and have not won a series since that 1996 run. If Ranoic
and Bouchard slip back in rankings or fall early in the major tournaments,
two years from now, average fans will not remember them.
3. Success builds future success across the country. Twenty years ago
there were a handful of Canadians in Major League baseball and the NBA. In
1997 when Larry Walker became the first Canadian to win an MVP in baseball,
who would have predicted that two other Canadians would win soon after (Joey
Votto 2010 and Justin Morneau 2006). When Steve Nash became the first
Canadian to win the MVP in 2005 (and again in 2006) no one would have
predicted that Canadians would be drafted first overall two years in a row
Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Anthony Bennett (2013).
Thirty years ago I remember watching dramatic tennis matches between John
McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. Maybe I will find that same drama in tennis in the