SHERBROOKE, Que. -- Milos Raonic is Canada's star tennis player right now, but the country's future is on the court this week at the Canada Summer Games.
Ontario's Erin Routliffe and Brayden Schnur as well as Quebec's Hugo Di Feo have all been students at Tennis Canada's national training centre for years.
All three are considered up-and-coming stars and have ambitions to turn professional.
Schnur, a native of Pickering, Ont., has a scholarship to play tennis for the University of North Carolina starting in January. He currently ranked 811th in the world and is hoping to be in the top 600 by the time he leaves for school.
"I'm looking to keep moving forward and improving and improve as fast as I can. My goal is to be on the pro circuit so as soon as I get in the NCAAs I'd like to win the championship as soon as possible," said Schnur. "Whether it's team, whether it's singles, whether it's doubles, but mostly I'll be focusing on singles because that's the game I like to play."
Schnur and Routliffe have very similar plans. Both are 18 and have been attending the national training centre for two years with plans to turn pro after spending time on the American university circuit.
Routliffe was born in New Zealand when her parents were sailing around the world, but moved home to Caledon, Ont., when she was four. She'll be attending the University of Alabama on a tennis scholarship on Aug. 13, just days after tennis wraps up at the Canada Summer Games.
"Since I was little the dream was to be a professional, top 100, top 50 in the world, so I'm going to keep at that," said Routliffe. "People say it's harder when you go to college, but I'll try to prove them wrong, I guess? But I'm sure it's harder because you've got to focus on other things other than just tennis."
Di Feo, from Montreal, has been at the national training centre for three years and also has high aspirations for his professional career.
"I try to be top 10 in the world and, obviously, I'm trying to win a Grand Slam," said Di Feo. "That'd be a big goal for me."
The 18-year-old was Quebec's flag bearer at the opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games on Friday and was impressed by the crowd's reaction when his delegation stepped on the field.
"It felt unbelievable," said Di Feo. "I was so happy, I couldn't ask for more. I was glad that they picked me to be the flag bearer this year."
All three of them see attending the national training centre as key to their professional development -- especially the influence of Raonic, the program's most successful graduate.
"It's good to see, definitely, to see another Canadian doing well because we never really had that before really in the singles. We had (Daniel) Nestor in the doubles but it's kind of almost shocking in a way what (Raonic's) done because he's so young and you don't see players that young in the top 15, top 20, that often," said Schnur. "I got the opportunity to train with him last week and it was a really good experience. I got to know him really well, he gave me some good tips.
"I look forward to seeing him and maybe playing against him in the future."
Di Feo was quick to agree with Schnur on Raonic's influence both on and off the court.
"He's been great. He's been through what I'm doing right now. He went to the national centre for a couple of years. To see him do so well on the circuit is just unbelievable," said Di Feo. "It gives me a lot of belief in what I can achieve in the future."
Routliffe and Di Feo also point to the national training centre's fitness regime as a source of their success.
"When I went to NTC I didn't really do fitness at all," said Routhliffe. "I say that was the biggest thing ever. Our fitness program there is pretty hard, so now I'm a lot more fit."
Added Di Feo: "I got in at 15 years old and I was very average and I think my game's improved every year, by a lot. My serve improved, my forehand. I'm very quick but they helped me build myself in the gym, it's been a big difference."