WATCH ABOVE: In Vancouver, the next generation of Canadian tennis talent are sharing how they’ve been inspired by their heroes. Aaron McArthur reports.
Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic are giving tennis unprecedented exposure in hockey-mad Canada.
How long it lasts remains to be seen, but the possibility of a Canadian sweep at the world’s biggest tennis tournament has created a national buzz.
Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., won her semifinal on Thursday to become the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam women’s singles final. Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., reached the final four of the men’s draw but lost to tennis great Roger Federer in his semifinal match on Friday.
The sport has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity over the last few years in this country thanks in part to the success of the two rising Canadian stars.
Now, tennis coaches are saying that their breakthroughs will create even more young players.
Graphic by: Janet Cordahi
“Performance sports, it’s all about role models,” says Oded Jacob, a national youth coach for Team Canada based in Vancouver.
It’s amazing time in Canada with both a male and female on the biggest stages. It’s just inspiring. It’s very very good for the sports.
“These things sink in slowly to the public, but the fact that TV is broadcasting so much now is really helping. The kids watch it in the morning and they want to play. It’s a huge impact.”
WATCH: With her straight sets victory on Thursday, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is one step away from her first career Grand Slam. Rob Leth reports.
There hasn’t been this kind of buzz around Canadian tennis since Carling Basset, like Bouchard both talented and photogenic, advanced to the semifinal of the U.S. Open in 1984 and was ranked as the eighth best women’s tennis player in the world.
Andrew Maislin, sports co-ordinator in charge of tennis for City of Westmount says there’s been a “big uptick in registration, especially young girls registering for tennis lessons,” since Bouchard started to get a lot of publicity.
That trend seems to be true across the country.
“We’ve been growing this sport sort of three per cent to five per cent a year for the last few years,” said Tennis Canada president Kelly Murumets. “That’s considered a real accomplishment. I believe after today’s match and after yesterday’s (Raonic) match, I have to believe that the trajectory is a great deal more significant even than that.”
Raonic will next take on Swiss star Roger Federer with a berth in Sunday’s men’s final on the line. Bouchard will play Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the final on Saturday.
Whether they become champions this weekend or not, Jacob says one thing is already clear.
“More kids are going to want to be like Milos and like Eugenie.”
– With files from Justin McElroy and Aaron McArthur
© The Canadian Press, 2014