PRO CIRCUITS AND HIGH PERFORMANCE DEVELOPMENT
2021 IN REVIEW: LOOKING BACK ON A REMARKABLE YEAR IN CANADIAN TENNIS
Despite the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was still plenty to be positive about thanks to the exploits of Canada’s players on the court. Five Canadians finished the season ranked in the Top 25 – four in singles and one in doubles. Despite not playing in 2020, Bianca Andreescu remained Canada’s top-ranked player at No. 7 on the WTA Tour, with Denis Shapovalov a close second at No. 12 on the ATP Tour having reached a career-high No. 10 in September. Gabriela Dabrowski concluded the season ranked inside the WTA’s Top 10 in doubles for the third consecutive year. Milos Raonic (No. 14), who reached the final of the Western & Southern Open Masters 1000 event, and Félix Auger-Aliassime (No. 21), who reached three ATP singles finals of this own and won the doubles title at the Rolex Paris Masters, also featured in the Top 25.
Canada ends the year with six players ranked in the Top 50, a Grand Slam singles finalist and two WTA 1000 doubles champions
Despite the many events that were cancelled this past year due to the repercussions of COVID-19, in total 11 titles were won by Canadians on the professional tour, three in singles and eight in doubles.
Check out the Canadian tennis season by numbers.
Leylah’s breakout year
It has been a year to remember for Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC). Starting the year ranked No. 88 in singles on the WTA Tour, she had a breakout season which resulted in her jumping to a career-high of No. 24 by November. Fernandez won the first WTA title of her career at the Abierto GNP Seguros 250 event in March, beating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-4 in the final, and played a key role in Team Canada’s 4-0 win over Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs in April. Her biggest highlight, however, came at the US Open, where she beat three Top 5-ranked opponents to reach her first Grand Slam singles final, losing to Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu.
Grand Slam success stories
Aside from Fernandez’s spectacular run in New York, there were plenty of other Grand Slam success stories for Canadian players in 2021. Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon, losing only to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in a tightly contested match, while Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal, QC) made it all the way to the final four at the US Open before being beaten by Daniil Medvedev. In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) also reached the US Open semis alongside partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil. Indeed, at the US Open alone, four Canadians reached at least the third round, which is a first in Canadian tennis history at a Grand Slam event. In Fernandez, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, Canada was also one of just three nations – along with Russia and the Czech Republic – to have three unique Grand Slam singles semi-finalists throughout the year.
Six players in the Top 50
Canada closed the season with six players in the Top 50. Coming out on top is Dabrowski who, at a career-high No.5 in the world, is the highest ranked Canadian women’s doubles player ever. Next up at No. 11 on the ATP Tour is Auger-Aliassime, followed closely by Shapovalov at No. 14. Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) is at a career-high No. 22 in doubles, while Fernandez, following her spectacular season, is at a career-high No. 24 on the WTA Tour in singles. Rounding out the half-dozen Canadians in the Top 50, Bianca Andreescu (Mississauga, ON) – who returned to action in 2021 after a layoff due to injury and reached the Miami Open final in April – is at No. 46.
Photo: Gyles Dias
Doubles delight for Dabrowski and Fichman
It was a highly successful season for Canadian doubles specialists Dabrowski and Fichman, both of whom won WTA 1000 events at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers and Internazionali BNL d’Italia respectively. Dabrowski and Stefani’s run to the title in Montreal included victories over top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, as well as No. 6 seeds Andreja Klepac and Darija Jurak in the championship match. Along with regular doubles partner Giuliana Olmos, Fichman also qualified for the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico to round off an impressive calendar year. Dabrowski and Fichman teamed up at the Olympics to represent Team Canada in Tokyo.
The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team presented by Sobeys enjoyed early success in April when they defeated Serbia 4-0 in a Play-Off tie. That result, along with the team’s ranking, would ultimately seal their place at the Finals in November as they replaced former host nation Hungary in the draw. The team finished the Finals with a 1-1 record in its group which was not enough to qualify for a semi-finals place. Meanwhile, the Canadian Davis Cup team presented by Sobeys were also knocked out of the Davis Cup Finals at the group stage following loses to Sweden and Kazakhstan in Madrid, Spain. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Auger-Aliassime, Fernandez, Dabrowski, Fichman and Rob Shaw (North Bay, ON) all represented Team Canada. The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team will be back in action in April 2022 at home to Latvia, whilst the Davis Cup team will face the Netherlands in March.
NATIONAL TENNIS CENTRE
TENNIS CANADA’S NATIONAL TENNIS CENTRE PRESENTED BY ROGERS INTRODUCES ITS CLASS OF 2021–2022
15th season in full swing
During the fall, Tennis Canada kicked off the 15th season of its National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC), which opened its doors in 2007. Since the first iteration led by Louis Borfiga, the NTC has been home to over 50 athletes and proven itself by helping some of its players ascend to the highest spheres of international tennis.
Class of 2021–2022
The class of 2021–2022 is made up of athletes who have been training at the NTC for at least a year and throughout the pandemic: Victoria Mboko, Kayla Cross, Mia Kupres, Annabelle Xu, Jaden Weekes and Christophe Clément.
Get to know more about them in this video presentation.
The NTC by the numbers since its inauguration
- 53 athletes trained at the NTC (including the athletes currently training)
- 44 athletes enrolled in the program (21 girls, 23 boys)
- 12 athletes who play or played on a professional tour
- 22 athletes who earned a degree from an American university
- 6 athletes who competed on the NCAA college tennis circuit
- 5 Grand Slam singles titles (junior and professional) won by an NTC alumnus
- 9 Grand Slam finals (junior and professional) featuring an NTC alumnus
- 1,000 training hours per year
- Over 600 hours of study
Since last summer, Guillaume Marx has led the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers, as well as the regional training centres established in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, which bring together the best under -15 players in each region. Sylvain Bruneau continues to oversee the NTC’s transition program for girls, working in close collaboration with Simon Larose, and Marx runs the boys’ program with the support of Martin Laurendeau. Nicolas Perrotte and Virginie Tremblay are the Centre’s fitness coaches, and André Barette is the academic advisor.
Photo: Martin Sidorjak
National junior training programs and Tennis Development Centres
Tennis Canada is also focused on supporting the national junior training programs for young players aged under 15 years old. The training programs are well established in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, supporting over 50 athletes. The goal is to work hand-in-hand with club leaders, private sector coaches, provincial associations and personal coaches to optimize the work they are already doing by supporting top prospects and coaches achieve their goals. Lastly, Tennis Canada also supports the strong work done in the club structure nationally by helping almost 40 Tennis Development Centres that are committed to developing players in the private sector.
HIGH PERFORMANCE STRUCTURE
TENNIS CANADA UNVEILS ITS NEW STRUCTURE FOR HIGH-PERFORMANCE ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT
- Guillaume Marx and Sylvain Bruneau to assume greater responsibilities as Louis Borfiga retires
- Two new senior roles for Pipeline and for Performance science to play critical roles in new high-performance structure
In May 2021, Tennis Canada unveiled the new structure of its high-performance athlete development programs. Under the leadership of Hatem McDadi, Senior Vice-President of High-Performance, positions were identified and created to consolidate the status of Canadian tennis on the world stage. Among the individuals who play critical roles in the new structure are coaches Guillaume Marx and Sylvain Bruneau, who now assume greater responsibilities as Head of Performance and Head of Women’s Pro and Transition Tennis respectively.
As part of his new responsibilities, Marx oversees the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC), the regional tennis centres based in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver that bring together the best under-14 players in each area and the men’s professional tennis program including Davis Cup and Olympic tennis.
Sylvain Bruneau, winner of the 2019 Jack Donohue Coach of the Year Award, continues to lead Canada’s women’s program for professionals and transitioning juniors, as well as the Billie Jean King Cup and Olympic programs.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021 – Rebecca Marino of Canada talks with Sylvain Bruneau during her match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia during Billie Jean King Cup 2021 presented by BNP Paribas in Prague, Czech Republic. (Martin Sidorjak/Tennis Canada)
Based on an extensive analysis of the current structure and high-performance athlete development pillars of success, the new plan drawn up by Tennis Canada to support key areas of the player development pathway requires strong leadership coming from those key positions, and most importantly, key partners and staff to work effectively together. In addition to Marx and Bruneau, Jocelyn Robichaud was named Head of Under 15 Tennis Development (pipeline) and serves as the point of contact for key partners, provincial associations, clubs and academies to support their efforts to develop young talent. One more new senior position will be filled to bring more depth to the structure: Head of sport science and medicine (Performance science), a role which will provide cutting edge support to maximize results and optimize health for the entire high-performance system.
As part of this new structure, Janet Petras became Director of High-Performance Programs and Administration to provide leadership support for administration, link to the competitive structure, policies, and programs.
The team works with a strong group of national coaches, staff and accomplished external partners to drive High Performance development to more historic results.
Rebecca Marino qualifies for the Australian Open, bringing the number of Canadians in the main draw to seven.