It was a Wimbledon win for the red and white this year.
Despite no first place titles, Canadian tennis players Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard carved out new history by making it to the semifinals at the international tennis event, which wrapped up on Sunday in England.
Bouchard, 20, became the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam women’s singles final after defeating Simona Halep of Romania. Later losing to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3 and 6-0, Bouchard took home the runner-up trophy.
Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., also served up multiple wins, advancing to the men’s singles semifinal — the first Canadian male to do so since 1908, according to Tennis Canada. He lost to seven-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland.
For Connie Liew of Red Deer, the exposure the two athletes brought to the country when it comes to tennis, will go a long way in encouraging fellow young players.
“I taped Bouchard’s last game and even though I knew the result already, I still watched it . . . She is such an inspiration for the younger generations and really even the seniors,” said Liew, who has been a member of the Red Deer Tennis Club for the past 30 years. “Our club has been so supportive of her and how fast she made it and we love her cool personality.”
Liew said the club’s membership, at about 100 when she signed up, is now over 250 and she’s especially noticed the growing number of adolescents taking an interest in swinging rackets.
“It’s not just about hockey anymore in Canada,” she said. “It feels like everyday we have someone new signing up wanting to learn tennis . . . It’s packed.”
Jared Sandquist of Red Deer started playing tennis last summer with his father, Kevin, and now finds himself at the courts with friends quite often, said the 16-year-old Notre Dame student.
He followed Wimbledon closely, especially his favourite player, Federer.
“It’s exciting to have Raonic and Federer playing against each other,” he said on Friday just before the two took to the courts.
“Roanic is just getting better and better and Federer has always been good.”
Sandquist took part in the Central Alberta Schools Athletic Association Tennis Tournament last month, progressing to the men’s singles semifinals before losing 8-5.
He said he hopes the focus on the Canadians making history at Wimbledon will spark more interest in the sport on home turf.
“Seeing Canadians in Wimbledon, it’s good, gives some hope for more kids to make it there.”
Grant Cantin, originally of Stony Plain, Alta, watched a large part of Wimbledon up close — court side close — as he has been for the past 13 years.
Cantin, whose mother hailed from Red Deer, is the deputy head groundsman for the grass courts at Wimbledon.
The keeper of the green, Cantin received his training at Olds College’s turfgrass management program, graduating in 2000.
Prepping the lawn courts and monitoring the clay soil was business as usual this year, Cantin said
“They need to last for 13 days, a lot of wear and tear. So by semifinals, we’re really happy with the courts’ performance,” he said on Friday.
Every morning during Wimbledon, Cantin can be found with his head bent down checking out the courts.
“Once the guys are done cutting and marking, I will go see the referees and designate courts for practice for the players playing that day. Then I’m basically in centre court all
day, in case anything happens, giving towels, ice, whatever.”
He said it’s been “fantastic” to see the swelling plethora of Canadian talent at Wimbledon year after year.
“I’ve been keeping a close eye on Canadian tennis ever since I started this job . . . I’ve been rooting for Genie (Bouchard),” he said, adding he asks all the players how the courts feel after the games.
“I spoke to Roanic after his quarter final win and he was very happy . . . It was a tough match for him today but losing to the king of the centre court, there’s no shame in that,” said Cantin after Federer took the title again. “Getting to the semifinals is absolutely huge. They certainly all have bright futures.”