Written by: Pierre Lamarche
***Pierre Lamarche has been an outspoken proponent of Canadian tennis and how the sport should have a major place in the Canadian sport landscape. He believes this lofty ambition can only be achieved through the combination of success on the international professional competitive scene, with the required domestic infrastructure and a true partnership between Tennis Canada and the tennis private sector.
His comments are often taken as critical by those who feel targeted by his questions. His background as a player, coach, and leader [see background] in the sport and coaching industry warrants that his views, which are shared by many others, be given due process by anyone [or organization] who really wants to help Canadian Tennis achieve the proper national status it deserves in the sport community.
His ONcourt series of editorials specifically provides thoughts for reflection on how to make Canada a tennis superpower.***
Canada recently qualified for the elite 16 team World Group in Davis Cup through a thrilling 3-2 win over World Group 2009 semi-finalist Israel. This win not only qualified Canada for the World Group, it helped define the character of this new team. Captain Laurendeau was as always in control of the situation and led his team to victory while not being able to rely on his best player Raonic. The emergence of Pospisil cannot be underestimated, this type of win [3rd must win match in three days] in a hostile environment in the deciding match to gain access to the World Group, cannot be understood unless you have lived it.
Canada will now play France in Vancouver from February 10-12. On paper this looks like a blowout.
Fact 1: France has been in the World Group for 30 years. Canada is now entering its fourth time in the elite World Group.
Fact 2: France has ten players ranked in the top 100 in singles. Canada has one player in top 100 and ten more players in the top 1000.
Fact 3: France is ranked 4th in team rankings and Canada 14th.
Fact 4: France beat Canada 5-0 the only time they played…before any of the players on the Canadian team were born.
On paper it does not look good, so am I just trying to endear myself to Tennis Canada when profess to believe in Canada’s chances? Let’s look at some other facts. For those of you that have read Money Ball, you will understand that numbers do not always tell the tale.
Tennis Canada in the late 1980’s developed a strategic plan which was based on the success of its flagship teams, Davis Cup and Fed Cup. The philosophy developed then still remains in place.
1. We can beat anybody at home because we can pick the court.
2. We can beat anybody at home if we split the singles the first day, win the doubles on the second and roll the dice on the third.
3. We provide the team with the best support staff and insure great preparation.
Well you have probably heard that the surface in Vancouver will be like the surface in San Jose where Roanic won his first major ATP event in 2011. Raonic on his surface can beat anybody France will have to offer on the first day on the tie. Nestor [29-4 in doubles] and anybody else are one of the best doubles team in the world. He likes playing with Pospisil who complements him well. So now its 2-1 for Canada at the worst after Saturday. Pospisil can play the first day without pressure at home in Vancouver and anything can happen in that match.
Leadership and Management:
Marty Laurendeau was a captain in waiting when he was a player on the team. He has been there for 20 years in various roles and has always been the consummate team player. Daniel Nestor who will be on the team for the 20th year has been one the greatest Team contributor in various roles since his amazing win in five sets against the #1 player in the world at the time Stephan Edberg of Sweden. Finally Louis Borfiga, Canada’s team leader, was a top coach in the French system and knows many of the French players intimately.
1. Davis Cup format: Who cares if they have ten players in the top 100, they can only play two and we have one that can beat any of them with his serve. In the second days pivotal doubles we have a legend who is one of the best doubles players of all times.
2. Location: Vancouver is a great Davis Cup town. The team’s history there, the media, the fans are without a doubt great assets for the team.
3. Surface: Custom built for Milos serve and our doubles team, and a good one for Vasek as well.
4. Feb 10-12: France’s players will just have finished one of the toughest stop on the tour, the Australian Open. Much can happen there that will change the make up of their team. Ours will not change, unless we have injuries, as we have really no choice. Canada’s team will be coming home, go to a few hockey games, Daniel can follow his beloved Canadians and the French will yearn to be back in France. Vancouver is not fun weather in February.
1. Canada’s team is compact and solid, has great leadership and management and the fans will be a factor.
2. France’s team has many variables which cannot be fully addressed till the conclusion of the Australian Open.
The X-Factor – There are no coincidences
1. It will be the 20th anniversary of Canada’s surprise performance against the defending Davis Cup Champions Sweden in 1992. Sweden won the tie on the last set of the last match on a confrontation which received unbelievable exposure in this country.
2. That tie was played in Vancouver at the same time of the year.
3. It will be Nestor’s 20th anniversary of serving his country in Davis Cup.
4. The team will be made up of one solid world ranked player [Raonic now and Connell then], one upcoming player [Pospisil now, Nestor then] and a solid doubles team [Nestor-Pospisil now, Connell-Michibata then].
If you dream, you have a chance. This team has earned the right to believe in their dreams. I believe in them.
Go Canada, l’ll be watching and cheering.