The third week of hte 2016 tennis season was officially kicked off by Milos Raonic's impressive straight-sets win over the great Roger Federer in the Brisbane final.
Raonic isn't playing this week, rather training and resting up for an assault on the Australian Open draw next week. But it seems that just about every other Canadian tennis player you've ever heard of is in action – from the ATP and WTA Tour levels, right down to a $10,000 Futures event in Florida that features an up-and-coming junior.
First, the big shots: Vasek Pospisil backed up Raonic's great result with one of his own, in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
Pospisil was impressive in a 7-6 (4), 7-5 upset of No. 7 Ivo Karlovic, arguably the biggest server on the planet, in the first round. As a reward, he gets to face good friend and doubles partner (they won the 2014 Wimbledon men's doubles title together) Jack Sock in the second round.
The two have never faced each other - not in the juniors, not in the minor leagues, and not at the ATP Tour level. They will team up for the Australian Open next week.
How hard does Karlovic serve? At one point, Pospisil swung and whiffed on one 213 km/hour delivery – completely throwing off the ball girl standing behind him, who expected him to make contact. She ended up getting it in the face, but was reportedly okay afterwards.
On top of that, top Canadian woman Genie Bouchard made quick work of American veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands Monday in Hobart, Tasmania. After losing to her the first two times they played, Bouchard dispatched the defending Australian Open women's doubles champion 6-2, 6-1.
On the doubles side, Daniel Nestor and his partner this week, world No. 1 Marcelo Melo, are still alive at the Sydney ATP event after Nestor earned his 1,000th victory on the ATP Tour doubles circuit Monday. No one has ever come close to accomplishing that. Nestor and Melo will now set their sights on a title. Also in Sydney, Gloucester, Ont.'s Gabriela Dabrowski and Polish partner Alicja Rosolska narrowly missed the upset, falling to No. 4 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in the first round, 13-11 in the match tiebreak.
One level below, Pickering, Ont's Adil Shamasdin and partner Philipp Oswald of Austria, who will play the Australian Open together, fell in the first round of a Challenger in Canberra to an Australian wild-card team. Vancouver's Filip Peliwo fell in the quallifying for the second straight week in a Challenger event in Bangkok, Thailand.
Down at the ITF Pro circuit level, several Canadian women are making their season debut. Toronto's Carol Zhao, who is currently studying at and playing for Stanford University, is in the main draw of a $25,000 event in Daytona Beach, Fla. Sharon Fichman and Françoise Abanda (whose entry into the tournament was neglected and who had to play the qualifying as a wild card and the top seed) are in the final round of the qualifying and will try to join her Tuesday.
In Long Beach, California, Philip Bester is the No. 2 seed at a second week of ITF $25,000 tournaments ou southern California (a new prize-money level for the men on the ITF circuit this season). He reached the final in the event last week. Joining him out of the qualifying is Alejandro Tabilo, who has graduated to the full-time pro ranks as of the beginning of this year after using up his juniors eligibility.
In Plantation, Fla., where the prestigious Orange Bowl junior event was played just a month ago, 16-year-old lefty Denis Shapovalov qualified for another Futures main draw Monday. The qualifying draws in these events, which boast just $10,000 in total prize money, are as large as a Grand Slam - 128 – and four wins are needed to make the main draw.
Shapovalov's junior career, given he is outside the National Tennis Centre program, is taking somewhat of a different path for many reasons, including financial. He is signed up for the junior Australian Open; this tournament is being played on the Har-Tru surface, though.
Is that enough?
The Australian Open qualifying gets under way on Wednesday at Melbourne Park, and four Canadians are entered – two on both the men's and women's side.
For the men, it's Frank Dancevic and Peter Polansky, who is using a special injury-protection ranking to get in. For the women, it's Aleksandra Wozniak and Heidi el Tabakh, who also is using a special injury ranking (No. 174) to gain entry into the qualifying, after a long injury layoff.
Wozniak still has a chance to get directly into the singles main draw; two more withdrawals have to happen before the qualifying draw is made to get her in. And the clock is ticking.
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