***Sharon Fichman ranks with Helen Kelesi and Carling Bassett as Canadian junior players who were dominant figures in their junior days. She won the U 12 Orange Bowl, had great results in Junior Grand Slams, was the #1 Canadian U 18 junior player in singles and doubles at the age of 13 and was the youngest Canadian Fed Cup Team member at the age of … 14 Wow!***
ONcourt: What are your memories of junior competitive tennis?
Sharon Fichman: I will always have great memories from my junior years as a tennis player. Whether it be when I first started competing in the OTA or playing in the Junior Grand Slam tournaments, I wanted to win each match just as badly. My years as a junior consisted of a lot of training on court and off court. I certainly didn’t train as much as the juniors at say, Nick Bolletieri’s Academy in Florida, but I felt that I trained smart with the limited time I had. I always attended school full time, from 9am-3pm 5 days a week, and my training was to follow. I usually practiced 2 hours after school and had fitness 3-4 days a week. My weekends were usually full of OTA tournaments as a young junior but as I began playing the ITF junior circuit, I would travel around the world and have to miss weeks at a time of school in order to compete. All in all, my junior days were packed with loads of school work, practice on court, fitness and tournaments but I loved every minute of it. Obviously, there was a lot of sacrifice that was necessary in order to attain a high level of tennis and compete with the best in the world but that is no difference to any other person that wants to achieve their goals. It’s all about prioritizing, what is most important to you? To me … it was my tennis.
ONcourt: What would you do different in your career development now that you have the experience?
Sharon Fichman: The biggest thing I would do differently would be my mentality when competing and training. I have always been very competitive and sometimes the outcome was more important to me then the development of my game, the process. I believe that, especially at a young age, it is important to have the right objectives when you practice and compete and it is just as important to implement them to the best of your abilities whether you win or lose. If I could change anything, it would have been to stick to my objectives and tactics throughout a match regardless of the nerves and pressure.
ONcourt: What kind of advice would you give young aspiring players and their parents?
Sharon Fichman: Have Fun! In the end, tennis is just a sport. It should never be “your life” because if it is, you’ll notice that there will be A LOT of ups and downs.
Make sure that players are playing tennis because they love it and enjoy the competition. There is no athlete in the world that has ever reached their potential without competing from within.
Give yourself/your child a break when things aren’t going your way. Sometimes there will be days where every shot will be perfectly struck and in the court and then there will be days where the court feels like it’s the size of a ping pong table. The most important thing is to give your best effort and accept that you’re only human.
ONcourt: Is there a big difference between the pros WTA and the juniors ITF and what are they if yes?
Sharon Fichman: There is a world of difference between the Juniors and the WTA level. The biggest thing is attitude. All of the top girls on the WTA tour are hungry to win and they certainly show it. They are in the gym almost everyday and they are putting in the hours on court, working on specific drills/shots as well as competing. They are also very professional with everything they do. They could miss 10 shots in a row and you won’t hear a peep. They will go back and try again until they are happy with it. They fight tooth and nail for every point and no matter the score, every top WTA player will be fighting to win. They warm their bodies up well and stretch them out well. You will never see a top WTA player “not stretch” after a match because they lost. Although these may not sound like difficult things to do, you’d be surprised at how many players on the junior circuit aren’t doing them. Remember, it’s the little things that separate the good from the great.