Canadian tennis continues to rise with three men in third round at Australian Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov

When you think of traditional tennis powerhouses, countries such as America and Australia who have produced an array of top players over the years, come to mind.

Yet, with a mixture of experienced players and promising young talent, it might be time to start recognising Canada as a country with great strength and depth within the sport.

There has been a great deal of success on the women’s side in recent years, with Eugenie Bouchard a former world No 1 and Wimbledon finalist while Bianca Andreescu went even further in the Grand Slams in 2019 when she became the first Canadian to win a major with her success at the US.

However, at the Australian Open this year it is the men coming to the forefront, with Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime making their way to the third round.

Perhaps most exciting about this is that 11th seed Shapovalov and 21st seed Auger-Aliassime, two of the most exciting talents on the ATP Tour and friends off court, will face off in Melbourne on Friday.

This will not be the first meeting between the two, or even the first Grand Slam encounter, with Shapovalov prevailing in back-to-back first-round contests at the US Open in 2018 and 2019, though this is perhaps their most important.

Whoever prevails will reach the second week of the Australian Open for the first time and will likely face eighth seed Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round – a match both will believe they can win.

Even before Shapovalov had secured his place in the third round with a straight sets win over Bernard Tomic, Auger-Aliassime was excited about the prospect of facing his compatriot.

Auger-Aliassime, who himself beat James Duckworth fairly comprehensively, said in his post-match press conference: “I think it’s going to be good for the sport in Canada. It’s always entertaining and a good opportunity for me to play him again.”

Of course, before Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime were making inroads on ATP Tour the more experienced Raonic was one of the best players in the world during large parts of the past decade.

Raonic reached a career high of third in the rankings during his prime, reaching the final at Wimbledon in 2016 and also reaching the last four Down Under earlier that year, while he also made the quarter-final in Melbourne last season despite only being seeded 32.

The 30-year-old seems to be nearer his best after injury trouble in recent seasons, breaking back into the top 15 of the rankings in 2020, and will be the favourite for his third round clash against Marton Fucsovics before a potential meeting against Novak Djokovic.

Raonic is perhaps unlikely to win a major at this stage in his career though, playing at the Australian Open for the 11th consecutive year, there is little doubt that he remains one of the most respected players on the ATP Tour and the standard bearer for Canadian men’s tennis in recent seasons.

And now, as they get set to face each other in two days time, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov seem set to continue that success in the years to come.

Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.

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