I can see everyone jumping about that title. This doesn’t mean that the Canadians owned the tennis year, but merely that the next two posts will summarise what my countrymen did throughout the season and yes, some of them did rock it, and quite a bit, in 2012.
My Canadian player of the year: Filip Peliwo
With four Junior Grand Slam finals, the last two being titles, and finishing his Junior career ranked no 1 in the world, there is no doubt in my mind that Vancouver’s Filip Peliwo is the Canadian player of the year.
Indeed, the Junior Grand Slams are best-of-three matches. However, the competition, even at this level, is fierce, and the players Peliwo had to defeat to only reach those finals and contend for the title were all talented young men, who have bright futures ahead of them.
Peliwo had a strong end to 2011, reaching the semi-finals of the Pan American ITF Championships, the quarter-finals of the Copa Yucatan, and the semi-finals of the Orange Bowl. He also started 2012 solidly, defeating then number one Junior Luke Saville just a couple of days before the start of the fist Grand Slam of the season to win the title in Traralgon. In Melbourne, “Pepe” had a good run, reaching his first Junior Grand Slam final, which he lost to Saville, who had been runner-up in 2011.
After the Australian Open, Peliwo played mainly Futures events, but his best performance came at the Rimouski Challenger, where he reached his first professional semi-final. Ranked 827th, he went to defeat Adam El Mihdawy (395), Vincent Millot (238), and Mathieu Rodrigues (229), before falling to eventual champion Vasek Pospisil.
At the Junior French Open, Peliwo made another great impression, makig his way rather comfortably all the way to the final, where he lost to Belgian Kimmer Coppejans.
Despite the tough loss, Peliwo bounced back in Wimbledon, fighting his way through tough quarters and semi-finals matches before taking his revenge on defending champion Luke Saville, coming back from 2-5 in the first set to defeat then Junior no 1, 7-5 6-4, finally putting his hands on a Junior Grand Slam title at his third straight final and becoming the first Canadian boy to do so, the second Canadian overall, as he had been preceded by Genie Bouchard, who had won the Girls’ title the day before.
Just before the U.S. Open, he reached his first Futures semi-final, in Winnipeg, and then went on to play his last two Junior events, in Repentigny, where he lost to Liam Broady in the semi-finals, and the U.S. Open, where he fought a very difficult draw to, once again, face Liam Broady, this time in the final. Peliwo ended his Junior career on the best possible note, clinching his second Junior Grand Slam title of the season, at his fourth final of the year, and ensured to finish the year as the best Junior player in the world.
It is no coincidence if Peliwo was called to be the Canadian team’s sparring for the Davis Cup playoff tie against South Africa, just after the U.S. Open. His performances throughout the year and his great talent make him a valuable asset, and he there gained valuable experience, as he told me when I had the chance to chat with him a little, a couple of days before the start of the tie:
A couple of weeks ago, Filip Peliwo reached his first professional final in Merida (Mexico), where he lost in straight sets to Frenchman Lucas Pouille, who had won, including this final, his tenth consecutive match.
Something tells me that this is just the beginning for Peliwo. At a career high of 521 in the world’s rankings, the 18-year-old still, of course, needs time to develop, but his game, a cross between Lleyton Hewitt’s and Novak Djokovic’s, given time to develop, should make him a great player in the years to come. Again, the key, here, is to let him develop, as it will likely not happen overnight.
No Sophomore jinx for Milos Raonic
The 2011 Newcomer of the Year, Milos Raonic, had a hard task ahead in 2012, as he had the face a crucial second season, and he passed the test with flying colours.
While some of his peers in the same situation struggled, as was the case of Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic, the 21-year-old from Thornhill continued impressing, ending the season with a 45-20 record, including two titles (Chennai and San Jose), as well as finals in Memphis and Tokyo.
Furthermore, Raonic proved that he is getting closer to very great things, posting his first wins over top 5 players (all to Andy Murray), and edging Roger Federer three times and on different surfaces, in Indian Wells, Madrid, and Halle, all of them three-set thrillers.
Other tight losses to players like Juan Mónaco (Roland Garros), Sam Querrey (Wimbledon), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (London Olympics) also showed not only that he has some tools to compete with the best of the game, but also what he is lacking to make an even bigger jump to the top 10, where he aims to be.
If his powerful serve is now becoming a shot of legend, and if his volleys are quite efficient, his return game is still an element of his game that he will need to polish in order to continue his climb in the rankings.
Nevertheless, it was a very good season for Milos Raonic, who ends 2012 at a career high of no 13 in the world, although with quite a lot to defend at the start of 2013.