As the dimming lights enveloped the centre court of the indoor Pala Alpitour arena in Turin, Italy, the stage stood set for the start of the 2022 Nitto Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Finals. It was at this 53rd edition of the climactic event that Canada — a nation known for its love of hockey — was poised to make its long-awaited, triumphant return to the pinnacle of professional tennis. 

Montreal, Québec’s Félix Auger-Aliassime — who seeded fifth in the season-ending championship — became the second Canadian in all of men’s tennis history to participate in the prestigious ATP Tour Finals. Thornhill, Ontario’s Milos Raonic, was the first, having qualified for the tournament in 2014 and 2016. 

Despite defeating his childhood idol and 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in a dominant straight-set victory, Auger-Aliassime finished the event with a 1–2 record, losing to Taylor Fritz and Casper Ruud in his other two group stage encounters. 

Auger-Aliassime’s round-robin elimination from the championship did not reflect the scorching end-of-season form that saw him win back-to-back-to-back titles within a three-week span. Just in October 2022, he captured titles at the Firenze Open, European Open, and Swiss Indoors. 

Auger-Aliassime capped off his remarkable 16-match win streak across multiple tournaments by producing an impressive run at the Paris Masters, ultimately falling short in the semifinals against the tournament’s eventual champion, Holger Rune, in two sets.

During that tournament, at the tail end of last year, the future of Canadian tennis looked to be in the hands of Auger-Aliassime, who had his sights set on a successful 2023 campaign — carrying the momentum from his first title-winning season on the ATP Tour that culminated in a career-high ranking of No. 6 in the men’s singles category. 

However, Auger-Aliassime’s meteoric rise in 2022 has seemingly been overshadowed by his 2023 woes. In the past ten months, the 23-year-old has experienced a dreadful run of form and a plethora of disappointing first- and second-round exits — a polar opposite result from last year. 

Auger-Aliassime’s second-round defeat to Márton Fucsovics at the Shanghai Masters on October 6 marked the seventh time in his last eight events that he had lost his opening match of a tournament.

But Auger-Aliassime is one of many Canadian tennis players to have endured a lacklustre season. Vaughan, Ontario’s Denis Shapovalov last played a match in the fourth round of the Wimbledon Championships in early July. He is currently recovering from a knee injury that kept him out of this year’s US Open. 

After attaining a career-high ranking of 10 in 2020, the Israeli-born lefty — now ranked 45th in the world — hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals of any tournament he has participated in since finishing as the runner-up at the 2022 Vienna Open. 

On the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, Canadians Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez have suffered the same unfortunate fate. Despite achieving success at the Grand Slam level, both now sit below their overall career-high rankings, though Fernandez has fared better. 

In 2019, Andreescu became the first Canadian tennis player to win a major singles title after defeating Serena Williams in straight sets in the US Open Final. The former world No. 4 is now ranked 78th in 2023 and has not won a title since her historic 2019 triumph in the Big Apple. 

More recently, after reaching the finals of the US Open in 2021, Fernandez was set to become the new face of Canadian women’s tennis. However, the former junior Grand Slam champion has struggled to find consistency in her game. Apart from a quarterfinal appearance at the 2022 French Open, Fernandez has yet to make it past the second round of a major tournament since her memorable run at Flushing Meadows in 2021.

Canadian tennis has undoubtedly embraced the highs and the lows of the game. The bursts of momentum — and glimpses of success that fans became accustomed to seeing from their fellow Canadians on the court — have vanished this season, due to the lack of consistency the players have shown more recently. 

However, there is no doubt that with the potential that players like Auger-Aliassime and Fernandez have displayed in the past, the tide will turn, and we will see Canada back at the top of professional tennis very soon.