There are a variety of paths that a tennis player can take to make it to the professional level. Some are prodigies at the junior level, some are able to make a seamless transition to the pros, while others take a little longer to develop, are sidelined due to injury or even choose the university route.
On Wednesday at the Drummondville National Bank Challenger, there were four Canadian players in action who had very different paths which ultimately led them all here, competing for the same title.
Despite his mere 24 years of age, Samuel Monette has been sidelined for a significant amount of time due to injury. Having chosen to go to an American University, he played on the NCAA circuit for four years at Indiana University. After his rather successful university career, where he notably won the ITA Regional Singles Championship, Monette took a quick break before deciding that he was ready to go all-in.
In 2017, he climbed over 1000 spots in the ATP rankings, claiming his first professional title at the Niagara Futures along the way. His run was short-lived, however, as he was forced to take three months off to treat tendinitis in both of his knees. Now back from injury, Monette is getting into the rhythm of the professional tour, playing in tournaments every week with little rest time in between. He is coming into Drummondville having reached the quarter-finals at the Gatineau Futures just a few weeks ago.
Brayden Schnur also took the university route, as he was a highly-recruited player after graduating from Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre. His successful university career at the University of North Carolina was highlighted by winning the ITA National Indoor Collegiate Championships in 2014 and being ranked as high as no. 2 in the National NCAA rankings.
The 22-year-old turned pro in July 2016 at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where he had qualified for the main draw two years prior. Currently ranked no. 202 in the world, Schnur climbed over 300 spots in the rankings in his first year on the professional tour in 2017. If his continuous ascent of the ATP rankings is any indication, he is destined to make title runs at a number of tournaments, including this week in Drummondville.
Vasek Pospisil’s journey to the ATP World Tour was a little more straight forward, as the Vancouver native turned pro in 2007 after a solid junior career, which culminated in reaching the U.S. Open boys’ doubles final. He made a steady climb up the rankings before finally breaking into the Top 200 late in 2011. It was in 2013 that the Canadian made his breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, surprising world no. 6 Tomas Berdych in the process.
After winning his first Grand Slam title in doubles at Wimbledon and peaking at world no. 25, the Canadian experienced difficulties in consistency and fell in the rankings. Since the start of 2018, Pospisil has won two Challenger titles, which have helped get him back into the Top 100. In his quest to return to the top, he will have to continue to make deep runs in tournaments such as the Drummondville Challenger.
The veteran of the group, Frank Dancevic, has been playing at the professional level since 2003, notably becoming the country’s top ranked singles player at just 18 years of age. It was only in 2007, however, that he reached his career-high ranking of no. 65, thanks to his run to the quarter-finals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
He has been a staple on the Challenger circuit, having won eight titles in singles along with two in doubles. Dancevic has had a less busy schedule in the past few months, having welcomed his first child just before being appointed the new Davis Cup captain. With his hands full, he still manages to remain competitive in the tournaments in which he plays, something he is hoping to continue this week.
Despite their differing paths, these players all have the same objective, to be crowned champion in Drummondville.
[Alt] Joris De Loore (BEL) d. Franko Skugor (CRO) – 3-6, 6-3, 4-3 ret.
 Denis Kudla (USA) d. [Q] Antoine Escoffier (FRA) – 1-6, 6-3, 6-4
[WC] Samuel Monette (CAN) d. [Q] Ruan Roelofse (RSA) – 6-3, 6-4
 Brayden Schnur (CAN) d. [PR] Michal Przysiezny (POL) – 7-6(3) 6-2
 Henri Laaksonen (SUI) d. [Q] Alejandro Gomez (COL) – 6-3, 7-5
 Evan King (USA) d. [Q] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) – 7-6(1), 6-4
 Vasek Pospisil (CAN) d. Ante Pavic (CRO) – 7-5, 6-3
[PR] Frank Dancevic (CAN) d. Jack Mingjie Lin (CAN) – 7-5, 6-1
Alejandro Gonzalez (COL) / Nicola Kuhn (ESP) d. [WC] Justin Boulais / Pavel Krainik – 7-6(7), 7-6(5)
Ruben Gonzales (PHI) / Hunter Reese (USA) d. [Alt] Antoine Escoffier / Hugo Grenier (FRA) – 6-2, 6-4
Liam Broady (GBR) / Ruan Roelofse (RSA) d.  Matt Reid / John-Patrick Smith (AUS) – 7-6(2), 3-6, 10-3
Luis David Martinez (VEN) / Filip Peliwo (CAN) d. [WC] Samuel Monette / Brayden Schnur (CAN) – w/o
*Photos by Sarah-Jäde Champagne