Bouchard, Raonic make final push to summit at U.S. Open
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada has long been a global ice hockey super power, toasted a Formula One driver's champion and at different times has laid claim to the world's fastest man.
The Maple Leaf has been waved by a Masters champion and produced most valuable players in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.
Faced with some Everest sized hype, Canadians Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic have set up base camps within sight of that lofty goal and head into the U.S. Open next week prepared to make a final push for the summit.
By reaching the Wimbledon final Bouchard has already climbed higher than any Canadian before her after semi-final appearances at the French and Australian Opens - losing to eventual champions on both occasions - had already marked her as a rising star.
Raonic also reached new heights on the lawns of the All-England Club, becoming the first Canadian man to play a grand slam semi-final following a quarter-final run at Roland Garros.
Those results touched off a bout of tennis fever in their hockey mad homeland and installed both as cornerstones around which the next tennis generation will be built.
Raonic's rise has been more steady than spectacular but the big-hitting 23-year-old has already earned the seal of approval from 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer and his coach Stefan Edberg.
Seeded fifth at Flushing Meadows, Raonic is on the verge of crashing the Big Four of grand slam champions Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Federer, who have dominated the sport for the past decade.
While grand slam success may await Raonic, nothing less than super stardom has been predicted for the 20-year-old Bouchard, whose combination of skill, beauty and determination has set the tennis world abuzz.
WTA chief Stacey Allaster and world number one Serena Williams are among those who have not only hailed Bouchard as a future grand slam champion but the next face of women's tennis.
"I think Genie is a great player," said Williams. "I think she for sure is the future face of tennis.
"She's already proven being one of the faces of tennis now. Why wait for the future?"
As any athlete who has been to the top will tell you it is the final push to the summit where the real challenge lies.
When you are within sight of the peak, reaching it is as much a matter of will as skill.
On the cusp of fulfilling her promise, Bouchard stumbled, falling 6-3 6-0 by Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon final.
The young Canadian has been on the slide ever since, devastated after an opening match loss to American qualifier Shelby Rogers at her heavily promoted home tournament in Montreal. That was followed by second round exit in Cincinnati.