The Influence of Canadian Women in Tennis

BY PIERRE LAMARCHE

Celebrating the Women of Canadian Tennis

Pierre Lamarche, and daughter Laurence, who is not listening, but representing in her All Canadian ensemble

When my daughter, Laurence, the editor of ONcourt, asked me to celebrate the history of Canadian women in tennis, I suddenly found myself on a voyage down memory lane to the present. I realized my passion for the game had a lot to do with the experiences I shared with the women of Canadian tennis.

My first memories are Quebec’s Mariette Laframboise, the dominating Toronto duo of Louise Brown and Benita Senn, and my home province favourites Ann Bedard and Shirley Harit. Shirley played out of my home club, the Monkland Tennis Club, and her husband Val was one of my first tennis heroes. As I graduated through the juniors, Toronto’s Faye Urban and Vancouver’s Vicky Burner dominated the scene, as well as Andree Martin, a lifelong friend.

In my three years leading to winning the Men’s Canadian National Championship, one of my all-time soulmates, Marjorie Blackwood, started her ascent to world-class status. In London at the All Canadian Academy, I was privileged to be involved with Fed Cup players Helene Pelletier, Karen Dewis, Jill Hetherington and two of my lifelong friends, Wendy Pattenden and Marianne Groat. I remember our first Canadian Super Star Carling Bassett playing an exhibition at the London All Canadian Club for the benefit of our juniors, which included two great Champions and future coaches, Mandy Wilson and Caroline Delisle.

Helen “Hurricane” Kelesi

In my time in Toronto, with the All Canadian Academy, we were privileged to host what became the core of our Canadian Fed Cup team when I had the honour to serve as Captain: Vancouver’s gifted Sonja Jeyaseelan, US Open star Patricia Hy, the one and only fiery Helen “Hurricane” Kelesi, hard-hitting Jana Nejedly and finally one of the best competitors I met, Renee Simpson. In the background, future NCAA champion and WTA board member Vanessa Webb developed under the tutelage of one of our original All Canadian players, Simon Bartram.

Upon my return in 2000 from Tunisia, where I served as the National Coach, I spent ten years with the player who had a significant impact on my life, Ekatherina Shulaeva, A Canadian Fed Cup player whose career was cut short by injuries. In recent years Canadian tennis has achieved world-class recognition with the performances of fan-favourite and US finalist Eugenie Bouchard, my favourite all-around player, the 2019 US Open Champion Bianca Andreescu and Canadian and world darling, the US Open 2021 finalist, Leyla Fernandez. Memories of them playing in Burlington at Ace ITF events are special ones.

Now, who in this country will follow in the footsteps of these great Canadian Champions: Canada presently has six players ranked in the top 100 ITF Junior rankings. Amongst them are: #62 Marina Stakusick [2004], #63 Annabelle Xu [2004], #70 Meledie Collard [2003] and #100 Mia Kupres [2004]. The other two top 100 players are younger and might have the best chance of duplicating world-class maximum junior performance for Carling, Helen, Eugenie, Bianca and Leyla. Both of them are special to me as their history is part of mine. Kayla Cross, #73

Kayla Cross, ACE player, photo courtesy of Peter Figura

[2005] from London (read article from London Free Press) comes from a sport and tennis family. Her father, Cam and uncle Graeme were part of our all-time best All Canadian program in London. I remember Kayla playing in the team championships at ACE in Burlington as a nine-year-old and simply dominating the event with her personality. Vicky Mboko, #57 [2006] is family and has been noticed on the world scene [see article]. The memory I love the most of these two friends is of them having the biggest smile while enjoying their ice cream cones.The women of Canadian tennis have been a source of national pride, a stimulus in the development of the sport and, for me, a great personal

Stacey Allaster pictured above with Billie Jean King, photo courtesy of Peter Figura

insight into their leadership role. We cannot write an article about great Canadian women’s tennis leaders without mentioning the fantastic career of Stacey Allaster, from Welland, a Western University graduate, CEO of the WTA and now the US Open Tournament Director.

See article https://www.canadagames.ca/stories/growing-the-game-stacey-allaster

Ladies, thank you for the memories and for contributing so heavily to the growth of the game we love in our country.

PS: I apologize for any oversight of any past player such as Canadian Hall of Famer, Dr. Susan Butt, but the article was more about the great ladies, which influenced me ……as I believe if you are a good coach, you learn from your players.

2 Responses

  1. Salut Pierre,
    C’est avec grand plaisir que j’ai lu les noms connus du tennis féminin. Plusieurs d’entre elles que j’ ai vues du haut de la chaise d’arbitre.

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