ONcourt Interview: Joan Cannon and Soufiane Azargui


*** Soufiane Azargui is currently the Captain of the Men’s Brown University Tennis Team. In 2011-12 Soufiane was named Second Team All-Ivy in both singles and doubles posting an 18-7 record in singles and a 19-11 mark in doubles. He played mostly #2 singles, where he was 8-0 (2-0 Ivy) and played #1 doubles. Before Brown Soufiane was Canadian National Champion in both singles and doubles and trained at ACE Tennis in Burlington, Ontario.

Joan Cannon is currently a second year student and plays for the Princeton University tennis team. Joan was ranked top 10 in Canadian junior singles and was the doubles finalist of the 28th All Canadian ITF Junior Championships in 2010, as well was the U16 Ontario Closed doubles Champion. Like Soufiane, Joan was a long time ACE Tennis student. ***


Soufiane Azargui and Joan Cannon are back from university at ACE Tennis for the holidays. Soufiane is currently in his third year at Brown University in Rhode Island while Joan is in her second year at Princeton University in New Jersey. Craig Mercer caught up with the two of them sitting in the lounge at Cedar Springs after practice and thought that it would be nice to share their conversation for the benefit of aspiring young players.

Craig Mercer: Nice to see you guys back here at ACE for the holidays. So, how is Brown Souf?

Soufiane Azargui: Really good. We have a great team dynamic. It’s the friendships I have formed that I value the most about the school through tennis, social events and study sessions in groups.

Joan Cannon chimes in: He is the team captain this year. He’s a pretty big deal.

Craig: What’s it like being team captain? What are your responsibilities?

Soufiane: If the coach is not around for whatever reason it is my responsibility to be in charge of practices. In general, I must lead by example. I need to keep pushing the guys and be vocal when needed. It’s actually weird to keep the friendships and be detached in a way when I need to as the captain.

Craig: Joan, who’s your team captain?

Joan: She’s a good player and is more detached from the team. She motivates us on court during practice and is a good liason between the players and coaches

Craig: Are you enjoying Princeton?

Joan: Yes, second year is much better as I am adapting and the school schedule is a little less demanding.

Craig: Do you two find that your professors are flexible with you since you are on the tennis team?

Soufiane: I have only ever had one prof that wasn’t supportive.

Joan: Yes, if tennis and school conflict at all they are sure to manage it appropriately.

Craig: How have you found balancing your school work and the tennis?

Soufiane: It’s tough to balance when you have a tournament on weekends when there are big exams and assignments on the go. You have to manage yourself well. You need to ensure that you are getting your work done and getting enough sleep at the same time which can be challenging. At the same time ensuring that you are preparing for the tournament. It’s about managing the opportunity cost between getting enough sleep, study and tournament preparation. Bringing a little Econ into it.

Joan: If you plan your schedule well with your coaches and fitness trainer you can manage quite well.

Soufiane: Yeah, you just need to be organized.

Craig: What’s it like coming back to Burlington and ACE over the holidays?

Soufiane: It’s fun to come back over the holidays to see all the players and coaches and everyone.

Craig: Do you guys miss your families?

Soufiane: For sure I hardly ever see mine as they are in Morroco.

Joan: I haven’t seen my parents since August and I definitely miss them. I think it is even harder for the parents than the kids though.

Soufiane: Definitely.

Craig: How do you two find the new courts here at ACE?

Soufiane: I really like them. It’s tough though because we all come back off of a break. It’s difficult to play an event with only three days of practice. The courts are slow and play really well though. I’m looking forward to it. It will help me be match ready when I head back to Brown.

Joan: The courts are great!

Craig: If you guys had a 14-15 year old here sitting in front of you and ask you what they should do in order to do what you guys are doing (playing NCAA. Div 1 tennis at a top academic school) what would you tell them?

Joan: Start practicing for SAT’s early and ensure you are getting enough sleep to perform well on the court and in the classroom.

Soufiane: Learn to be more independent at an earlier age. I know a ton of people who can’t even do their own laundry! When they come from families and environments where everything is done for them they have trouble coping on their own. As well, learn to plan.

Joan: I would also add this. Make sure that you keep going to practice every day. Not just skipping here and there. Learn that discipline. It will take you a long way.

Soufiane: Great point Joan. I can’t go to my coach, “I have test tomorrow, how about we just cut practice short today.”

Craig: Did you guys have any influences while you were at ACE? Anyone you looked up to?

Soufiane: Absolutely, Mathieu Thibeaudeau. He lived on his own with Helen (ACE SAT tutor), he always seemed so organized. He won the U18 Nationals and went on to getting a scholarship at Alabama.

Joan: Katy Shulaeva. She was a hard worker on court and I remember playing on court 12 and she was the first older girl I got to hit with. It was inspiring.

Craig: Thanks for your input guys. I hope some of our up and coming players will read this on ONcourt. It’s great to have you back for the holidays and to have you here sharing your experiences with the younger players. You guys are both role models as many aspire to go to Ivy League universities and compete on their teams. Good luck in the Open this weekend!

Joan: You’re welcome Craig.

Soufiane: No problem. Thank you.

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