WIMBLEDON, United Kingdom — Canada originally had three direct entrants in the 2017 Wimbledon main-draw singles but that number has doubled over the past two weeks.
Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil were guaranteed spots in the 128-player fields, but Denis Shapovalov’s impressive showing at the Queen’s Club tournament in London two weeks ago earned him a main-draw wild card, and then Bianca Andreescu and Francoise Abanda won their way through three qualifying rounds that finished Friday.
It will be a first Grand Slam singles for the 18-year-old Shapovalov from Richmond Hill, Ont., who qualified and beat No. 47-ranked Kyle Edmund at Queen’s Club, and for 17-year-old Andreescu from Mississauga, Ont. Abanda, a 20-year-old from Montreal, is in her third.
Excited teenagers Shapovalov and Andreescu both said being in the Wimbledon main event was "surreal."
"I’m really happy with how I played the last couple of days," an energized Andreescu said Saturday at Wimbledon, about her qualifying success. "I was really determined. I really wanted it. I got it and now I’m here."
In the first round Tuesday she faces Kristina Kucova.
"I only know that she plays two hands on both sides," Andreescu said about the No. 105-ranked Slovak.
Having already upset a player ranked No. 51 — Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan — in Fed Cup in April, the heavy-hitting Andreescu has a decent shot at advancing against Kucova as does No. 142-ranked Abanda versus No. 94 Kurumi Nara of Japan.
The No. 61-ranked Bouchard plays 25th seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Of concern is the right ankle injury that limited her at the recent French Open.
"It’s good enough that it’s not something I think about when I play," said Bouchard, winless at two pre-Wimbledon grass-court tournaments. "I’m wearing a brace and I’ll probably be wearing a brace for the rest of the season. It’s too risky to re-injure it. Then it might be something worse."
Bouchard, 1-2 against Suarez Navarro, said she’s familiar with the Spaniard having practised with her two weeks ago in Majorca.
She plays Monday, as do Abanda and Shapovalov, with Raonic, Andreescu and Pospisil starting Tuesday. The No. 75-ranked Pospisil, who likely has the stiffest challenge of all the Canadians in world No. 8 Dominic Thiem of Austria, is in good form at the moment. He reached Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2015.
Shapovalov, No. 164, plays No. 141 Jerzy Janowicz, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2013.
"I don’t think there will be many long rallies," he joked about facing the big-serving, six-foot-eight Pole, whom he beat 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) at a Challenger event in Mexico in March.
While the other Canadians can legitimately hope to make a run, Raonic, runner-up to Andy Murray a year ago, remains the best bet for success. That’s despite an unlikely first-round 7-6(5), 7-6(8) loss at Queen’s Club to Thanasi Kokkinakis — a match he dominated although he didn’t break the 21-year-old Aussie’s serve.
"I had nine break points and he didn’t get past 30 on my serve," No. 7-ranked Raonic said about the match. "So as frustrating as it was it sort of gave me some piece of mind. It wasn’t like a big crisis moment by any means."
Maybe more important is that he has now played six tournaments since early May without injuries.
"I haven’t had any issues," said Raonic, who recently hired a former ATP trainer Michal Novotny to manage his fitness. "I changed the whole training program. It’s been a lot of time on clay and obviously on grass and that’s a little bit easier on the body. Things are in a much more positive direction. The body’s fine."
He begins with a first-time meeting versus No. 50-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff. About the six-foot-five German, Raonic said "He hits the ball hard, goes for his shots, plays big — so I’ll have to watch some video."