Joel Dembe has finally become the number one ranked Canadian in the ITF Men’s Wheelchair tennis singles ranking. Joel passed Yann Mathieu (the previous number one) this week to take over the number one position. The results began to fall into place recently and Joel has won 2 ITF tournaments this year (Puerto Rico and Sacramento) and was a finalist in the Texas Open. It has been a long wait and he has worked hard to put himself in position to take over the top ranking. It is a nice reward for a goal that was made two and a half years ago.
A large part of the recent success has come about from Joel taking a leave of absence from his Job at TD Bank this past spring. This was a necessary step for Joel to continue to improve and to reach his goals. The additional time has allowed him to train many more hours each week with the ACE tennis coaches at Toronto Tennis City and to travel to play more tournaments this year. Joel’s improved tennis skills, increased confidence new found tournament experience have invigorated his on court play.
In addition to his increased on court schedule, he has been working with Neurotherapist Stephanie Nihon to improve his on court emotional control and in-between point routines and with Jonathan Skelcher (Fitness and Strength Trainer, FitFix) to increase his strength, speed and endurance. All combined, Joel secured a solid team of professionals around him and has put most of the pieces together to build success for the future… Next up, a full schedule for the rest of the summer, the Para Pan American games in the fall (Guadalahara, Mex.) and to secure a place in the 2012 London Paralympic games!
The ONcourt met with Joel to ask him about how it feels like to be No 1.
ONcourt: Joel, how do you feel about finally becoming number one in Canada?
Joel Dembe: It feels great! It’s been a long journey, and I feel that my training has certainly paid off. Even though I might be number one, I still know I’ll have to constantly improve in order to have a leg up on my opponents.
ONcourt: What sacrifices have you made to get where you are now and to continue your quest to reach your potential?
Joel Dembe: Leaving my full time job was probably the biggest, but most necessary. I’m now able to fully focus on training and traveling. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which I could have improved my game at the same level without leaving my job. It’s also neat to tell people that my profession is an athlete! There have also been financial sacrifices in order to compete – but these are shared by most full time athletes as well.
ONcourt: What’s up next for you?
Joel Dembe: I have a few tournaments in BC, and then I’ll be back in Toronto just in time to give a demo at the 2011 Rogers Cup.
ONcourt: What do you think that you have to do to keep on improving and getting your ranking higher?
Joel Dembe: I know my serve still needs a lot of work. My goal is to get it to the point where I have no issues holding serve. I also need to be more assertive on court and dictate more points. Finally, I need to believe in myself a lot more when playing a higher ranked athlete. I tend to think myself out of beating better-ranked players.
ONcourt: Are you looking forward to the Paralympics?
Joel Dembe: Absolutely. It would be the culmination of a lifelong dream I’ve had. I still have a long way to go, but I know I’m headed in the right direction.
If you wish to help Joel reach his goals, you can make a tax deductible donation at www.joeldembe.ca