The first week of the ATP World Tour is always intriguing for many reasons. We get to see an early glimpse of who has improved over the brutal off season, and we also get to see who failed to maximise their training time. Another fascinating aspect of week one on the tour is that players need matches in order to be as sharp as possible for the Australian Open; this leads to many singles specialists teaming up with fellow top players to compete in doubles.
One of the standout pairings in the Brisbane draw is two of Canada’s finest players joining forces. Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov have decided to compete with each other for the first time and it is greatly anticipated. Although the 27-year-old Raonic is higher ranked then his compatriot, it was the 18-year-old who was named Canadian Male Athlete of the Year. The allocation of the award hardly surprised anyone due to the fact that the Next Gen star enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2017 which saw him crack the Top 50 and become the youngest Masters 1000s semi finalist in history.
Shapovalov’s 2017 was a steep upward trajection which contrasts to the season that Raonic endured. The former Wimbledon finalist suffered an injury littered year which ended prematurely at the US Open. Despite this, he did manage to reach two Grand Slam quarterfinals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. The main goal for Raonic this year will be to remain healthy throughout the season and then the results will eventually come.
Tough Draw for the Canadian Duo
The exciting pairing have been handed to trickiest possible draw as they will face the top seeds, Henri Kontinen and John Peers, on Sunday. The seventh best team in the world will most likely receive most of the support due to Peers being Australian, but the result is not a foregone conclusion by any means. Both of the Canadians are supreme talents whose games should nicely translate to doubles because of their prowess in the forecourt. They both posses lethal serves so this should be an epic contest.
In the singles event, Milos Raonic has received a bye because he is seeded #4. His first opponent will be the winner of the match between the dangerous Steve Johnson and young Australian wildcard, Alex de Minaur. A fully fit Raonic will be a heavy favourite to progress to the quarterfinals but his fitness is unknown to us at the moment. The big serving Canadian has the capability to go deep in this event, after all he reached two finals back-to-back here in 2015 and 2016 where he faced Roger Federer on both occasions, winning the latter. That triumph in 2016 was the last time he won a title on tour.
Denis Shapovalov has been drawn against a familiar foe, Kyle Edmund. The two young players faced each other three times last year with the Brit’s only victory coming in their first meeting in an eventful Davis Cup tie. Shapovalov has gone on to win the next two with victories on the grass of the Queen’s Club, and at the US Open where Edmund was forced to retire. A great match awaits but it is one that Denis Shapovalov should come through.
Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov will be the faces of Canadian tennis for years to come and it is amazing to see them team up together in the opening week of the season. They would love to play multiple matches this week in both singles and doubles to get prepared for the Australian Open. However, it may not be the last time we see them on the same side of the net, they could be competing together for their nation in the Davis Cup for years to come.