It’s National Coaches Week as Canada celebrates the tremendous positive impact coaches have on athletes and communities across the country.
Running from September 21-29, National Coaches Week was established by the Coaching Association of Canada and provides an opportunity to recognize coaches for the integral role they play by simply saying “#ThanksCoach”.
To mark the occasion, we’ve decided to look back at the top three coaching moments in Canadian tennis so far this year.
Canada and their hosts were playing for a place in the revamped Davis Cup Finals in Madrid this November. Félix Auger-Aliassime, at just 18, was making his Davis Cup debut.
His close friend and teammate, Denis Shapovalov, had got the team off to the best possible start with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Filip Horansky. Auger-Aliassime was up against Slovakia’s no. 1 Martin Klizan next.
Mid-way through the match, the drained teenager turned to captain Frank Dancevic and said: “I’m starting to feel it physically, it’s tough.”
“It’s going to be tough, but just keep pushing,” Dancevic responded.
Despite a valiant effort, Auger-Aliassime went on to lose the match 7-5, 6-3. However, later in the tie, the 18-year-old would win the dramatic, decisive fifth rubber 6-3, 6-4, sending the Canadians to the Finals.
It was a family occasion for Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez as she claimed the Junior French Open crown earlier this year. The youngster was imperious on her way to winning the title as she went through the entire tournament without dropping a single set.
Her 6-3, 6-2 victory over the United States’ Emma Navarro in the final was the icing on the cake – especially following a disappointing loss in the Junior Australian Open final just a few months prior.
Upon winning championship point, Fernandez kissed her racquet strings, a trait suggested to her by her father, who, incidentally is also her coach. She then shared a touching moment with him in celebration.
Roland Garros Juniors champ Leylah Annie Fernandez is embraced by dad & coach Jorge after winning the title in Paris. pic.twitter.com/kdHQBP6NoB
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) June 8, 2019
Speaking to TSN following the victory, Fernandez explained exactly why her relationship with her dad makes them such a strong player-coach combination.
“We understand each other,” she said. “He knows me, he knows when I’m down or when something is wrong. Even though I’m saying ‘I’m good’ he just knows it. He knows how to train with me and how to push me every day. He knows when to take a break, spend time with the family, with mom and the sisters. He just understands me so well.”
It’s a moment that has already gone down in Canadian tennis folklore.
Rewind one Grand Slam title and one Rogers Cup presented by National Bank triumph ago and Bianca Andreescu had made an unlikely run to the final of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
The then-18 year old was facing three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, then-ranked No. 8 on the WTA Tour, and the duo were locked in a tense, decisive third-set.
Enter Sylvain Bruneau…
“You know how strong you are mentally and physically,” Bruneau said to a visibly frustrated Andreescu. “You’re right, you’re going to need to push through it. You’re going to need to stay strong under adversity but that’s okay. That’s what you want – you welcome competition…”
“I want this so bad,” Andreescu replied.
“Okay, that’s good – perfect! I like to hear that,” Sylvain responded emphatically. “So, go out there and keep competing – every single ball, every single point.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Andreescu went on to win the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and claim the first title of her career. There would be more to come in just a few short months….
(Feature photo: Mauricio Paiz)