Written by: Pierre ‘The Bear’ 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.***
The Bear’s own story on one of the most memorable moment in Canadian tennis
Note from The Bear: Unfortunately, due to time demands it was not possible for me to research and compile a list of everyone that participated in this momentous event. A lot of people contributed to make this the most memorable weekend of Canadian tennis. I apologize for these omissions and hope that everyone will overlook my memory lapses. But this is how I remember it…
My 20 plus hour flight home was filled with questions about the potential ramifications of that decision. Sznajder for various reasons had been removed from the equation. So the following thoughts crept in:
1. Could I ruin Daniel’s future by putting him in a potential disastrous situation? This kid was so talented and such a great competitor that nothing should jeopardise his future.
2. Could this setback, if it was a flop, negate the small inroads we had achieved with the Canadian media and public?
Finally, we were getting coverage, a disastrous decision would jeopardize the good will we had created and which was necessary for funding.
3. How about the team? I’m the captain, I’m his coach. If selecting him is right, it does not mean it’s right for the team?
Eventually this turned out to be the case.
4. My relationship with Pridham was very special. I had been his coach for years and he had showed me over and over the values I believe are essential in tennis and life: professionalism, integrity and commitment. How could I make him understand such a decision?
5. Marty Laurendeau was the consummate team player. That is why he is a great captain. He was coached by my friend and Team Coach, Louis Cayer. I knew I would break his heart for the second time [Uruguay the first time].
6. If you are a caring person, you never want to hurt the people you respect and I respected Pridham and Laurendeau. This part of the process was the most difficult for me.
7. How about my family, my company, my reputation? If I made a decision which made our country look bad, I would not survive the aftermath.
8. More than anything, Canada, Canadian tennis and the Canadian Davis Cup team were the most important to me outside of my family and friends. I would die if I ever embarrassed our great country and hurt our sport.
I know it sounds like a lot of drama, but injecting a 19-year-old in a very stressful situation [First World Group home tie] against the #1 player in the World, ahead of four higher ranked teammates was a long shot. I knew this could affect the future of so much and I wanted to make sure we came out of this first World Group Tie in a way which could project Canadian tennis to the forefront of fans subconscious thoughts.
The week in Vancouver was well planned. Bettauer was a master at getting us what we needed. He never was anything but superior in dealing with the Team’s needs and wishes. A lot of the success of those years should be attributed to Robert. From hiring me, letting Louis be my coach, giving us the feeling that we were a World Group team; Robert never wavered in his support. We had a full support team in Vancouver, the names I do not want to write for fear of missing someone. Two special ones that were never acknowledged were Doug Burke and Robert Bell.
Doug, a former top 200 ATP player, could have been eligible to play for Canada but earlier in his career we [I was his coach] felt the opportunity for him for the future laid in representing Jamaica in Davis Cup, a decision which led to him being the National Coach of Jamaica for 18 years. The previous year, I had started sending Daniel on the road with several of my former All-Canadian players to provide him support and give him insight on the pro tour. Doug had done this and he had a great relationship with Daniel. I brought him to Vancouver to babysit Daniel and prepare him. As captain, I had many responsibilities and I could not provide the required time for Daniel’s ongoing preparation and management during that week.
The time with Doug was perfect in insuring that Daniel received all he needed while being kept away from the hoopla of the tie. As well, we had designed a training schedule which kept him out f view of the Swedes as he often practiced in the secondary site.
Rob Bell was one of Alberta’s top coaches who was participating in the Tennis Canada level 4 coaching program which I headed. We had talked at the previous Wimbledon. I remember his son Carson sleeping in his arms at the end of a long match on the outside courts. He came specifically to Vancouver to prepare a report which involved daily scouting of the Swedes practices. Hiding in the top echelons of the PNE Agrodome, he recorded all practices of the Swedes and gave us daily reports. The Swedes were confident, not at all preparing to play leftie Connell and much less the kid with the corky left handed serve, Danny Boy.
Needless to say, Rob did pass is level 4 task “On National Team Preparation and Camps”. We remember you Rob.
All this coordination and management would have not been possible except for the always superb work of Louis Cayer, the Team Coach, and Dr David Cox, our Team shrink [he hates that]. We often used the good cop, bad cop approach in getting things done with the team. David, Louis and Robert were the good cops. Guess who was the bad one… I handled all outside needs and they made sure the team was ready.
The required team dinner preceded the draw where we finally unveiled our team, Grant as our #1 player, Daniel as #2, Glenn and Grant as our doubles team and Chris as the fourth member of the team. The dice had been rolled, process, process, process.