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.***
I have not been at a lower tier event on the Women’s tour in almost a year. It does not matter how many tournaments you have been to, a return to the competitive arena always awakens parts of oneself that only comes alive in this special environment.
For me, I have been away from the competitive arena of pro tennis since Katy Shulaeva’s retirement due to her lingering foot injury. I attended a few tournaments with Viktorya Kisialeva before she decided to attend Baylor University on a scholarship. Most of my competitive coaching time has been with our junior players at various provincial and national tournaments. Suddenly our ACE junior girls are getting older and better and their next step is entry-level events such as the Tevlin Challenger at the Rexall Tennis Center. The Tevlin [what great support from their family] is the type of event that will go a long way in making Canadian tennis better, as well as helping to provide the required competitive opportunities to all Canadian players. Of course, Tennis Canada’s initiatives in this area of restructuring their competitive structure will go a long way in creating a new wave of Canadian players.
17 Canadians were provided the opportunity to play the 32 player qualifying. Three of the four qualifiers were Canadians. Two of them, Elizabeth Fournier, #842 WTA from Ottawa and Sonja Molnar, #1014 WTA from Guelph, are both recent US university graduates. Molnar graduated from the University of Iowa while Fournier is a product of Washington State University, both of whom are examples of players who improved at University while getting an education and then being able to pursue their dream of professional tennis. The third qualifier was National Tennis Center student Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill. Carol, who is up to a world #12 ranking on the ITF junior circuit, has signed a letter of intent with NCAA powerhouse Stanford University. 14 other Canadians, seven of whom came from our ACE program, got the opportunity to compete in a world-class event.
The greatest eye opener was to see the quality of our Canadian girls. Bouchard, Abanda, Zhao and many of the other Canadian juniors can only make us believe that the future is extremely bright. The National Tennis Center program has certainly been a direct cause of this success. You take good athletes, train them systematically and give them the proper competitive opportunities with qualified coaches and you will get the results. If we find the way to expand these competitive opportunities to all Canadian players we might see the creation of a crop of players which would be second to none worldwide. An important facet of my overall observations was the quality of the fitness level and the professionalism of our Canadian girls.
In upcoming weeks we will feature many of these Canadian athletes and their coaches in personal interviews, which will give you better insight into the future of Canadian tennis on the Women’s side. A final note, I had the opportunity to see Rebecca Marino in her first round match and it is obvious that although she still suffers from her six month sabbatical from the game, she is a world-class player who can become the role model for all these young Canadians on the move. For those of you that love Canadian tennis, this is a great opportunity to see the future stars of the game while supporting our own Canadian players.