When the draw for Wimbledon 2014 first came out a week before the tournament began, I lowered my head in disappointment. The draws that all the Canadians received sucked, to put it bluntly. Even with the explosion in interest in Canadian tennis and the most recent success of Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard at the French Open, there were no breaks to be had at Wimbledon. Then a funny thing happened. Frank Dancevic, who made it into one of the rare main draw majors of his life, kicked things off in what was to be become the most successful tennis major in history for Canada.
Dancevic’s first opponent was Ivo Karlovic, a seeded player and one of the tallest and biggest servers on the tour. Dancevic won. It was an incredible moment for him, in what was one of the few main draw wins at a major for him. What he didn’t know was that upset win was the catalyst for what was to come for the Canadians. Although Aleksandra Wozniak had another heartbreaking, close loss, it was the forward momentum of Bouchard and Raonic that propelled Canada through the first week.
As they worked their way through the first week and into the second, two things became apparent: they had the talent (both mental and physical) to get there and like all top-ranked players that came before them, they got and worked with the luck of the draw to go even further. I don’t care how big of a tennis star you are, how many titles you have won or how many weeks at number one you have stayed – successful tennis players need a lot of luck to go along with their talent to get to where they eventually end up. You don’t think that Roger Federer or Serena Williams benefitted from easy draws, withdrawals, fate, luck or injured opponents to get where they are? They did. They used these things along with their talent to enter and stay within the upper echelon of the game. They saw an advantage, took it and used it. A lot of players would wilt or succumb to such circumstances. It’s like regular working stiffs who make names for themselves in the work world: no one gets to the top without a break or some sort of luck. That’s what happens in tennis. That’s what happened to Canada at Wimbledon. It’s not a bad thing or a knock against their performance. It’s just the way things go. They seized the opportunity and made the most of it, like all great champions do.
This law of the tennis Gods worked especially well for Bouchard. As Raonic worked his way through a pretty even draw, Bouchard gained considerable momentum by having other players knock out the heavyweights that she would have to play. Sharapova: gone. Serena Williams: gone. Li Na: gone. You may call this luck. Yes it was, but Bouchard seized it and ran through the rest of her draw as if she was on a mission. Her opponents were no slouches: Cornet, Petkovic, Kerber and Halep. When she got to the final, it was as if it was mission accomplished. In the final, Kvitova was just too good. She may have won the title, but the women’s tournament belonged to Bouchard.
Raonic was so steady throughout the tournament, that it seemed like it was destiny that he make his seeding. He did one better and got to the semifinals. Like Bouchard, he came to an opponent who could do no wrong in Federer. Also like Bouchard, he completely re-wrote the Canadian tennis history books.
The surprise of Wimbledon was Vasek Pospisil. He and his partner Jack Sock ran through the men’s doubles tournament like two carefree, free-swinging club players on a Saturday afternoon. It was a complete joy to watch. As they kept knocking off seeded teams, what they were doing was becoming more and more unbelievable. In the final against the legendary Bryan brothers, they played as if they had played together since birth. For Vasek, it was a complete turnaround, taking into account his back issues since the start of the year. Seeing him lift the trophy was a great moment.
For the first time in a couple decades, Daniel Nestor was NOT the last Canadian standing at a major. What a tournament for Canada.
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