It often seems as though a Davis Cup team is four or five players and a captain, since they’re the ones who appear on the courts and promotional posters and at press conferences. But it takes more than players to make up a squad. Indeed, an entire army works behind the scenes. The BMW Canadian Davis Cup team counts on a coach (Frédéric Fontang), strength and conditioning coach (Nicolas Perrotte), physician (Nicolas Sauvé), physiotherapist (Taran Ohsen), massage therapist (Jeff Ludovic), manager (Alain Beaupré) and stringer (Yvon Gilbert). And for the inaugural Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals a new staff member has joined the team, as Daniel Nestor will take on the role of doubles coach.
In our Behind the scenes series, you’ll get to know some of the people in the shadows and learn more about the supporting roles they play. You will see that their sole mission is to use their expertise to make sure the athletes are at the top of their game when the weekend gets underway. Today, the spotlight is on the Canadian team coach: Frédéric Fontang.
Frédéric Fontang is a former French player who reached an ATP ranking of no. 59 and won one title during his career. He hung up his racquet in 1998 and began his career as a coach shortly after. Since then, he has worked with Jérémy Chardy, Caroline Garcia and then turned to Tennis Canada after having a few conversations with Louis Borfiga. He began coaching Vasek Pospisil from the fall of 2012 until August 2016 and is now one of Félix Auger-Aliassime’s coaches, alongside Guillaume Marx.
“I had just ended my working relationship with Caroline Garcia. I was still in contact with Nicolas (Perrotte) and Luigi (Louis Borfiga) seeing as we had known each other for a long time and then Louis called me in September 2012 to ask if I would be interested in a trial run with a young player at the time, Vasek Pospisil. We immediately had great chemistry and it was the beginning of my adventure with Tennis Canada.”
This week, rather than concentrating his efforts on just one player, which he does for the majority of the season, his role as Canadian Davis Cup team coach brings him to share his time and his expertise with four players and to work with all of the support staff.
“It is completely different … even if I consider that we still have teamwork when working with a player like Félix, it is good to have this strong and enjoyable team dynamic because we share the responsibilities; there are positive vibes and we can feel the chemistry that is formed between the players. It changes the routine and is always positive. ”
The role of a Davis Cup coach is to assist the captain. Although he is not as much in the public eye as his colleague, he still does important work during practices and matches. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see Fontang address Captain Frank Dancevic during a match to share his observations. After working with Dancevic for almost two years now, he feels that he is very comfortable in his role as captain.
“I think that he has what it takes and he is already an excellent captain. He has experience as a player, having already disputed several Davis Cup ties. He knows the ins and outs, he knows how it works and I also believe that his personality is one of his main strengths. He is someone who unites people, inspires trust and brings good energy to the team.”
Over the past few days, Fontang has led Canada’s practices. The main goal was to adjust to the conditions and the surface. Most of the players arrived on Wednesday to start their preparations. The Canadians quickly found their stride in the Caja Magica.
“It is a good surface for our players. It is not too fast with high bounces, but with balls that move quite quickly and a little bit of altitude, it gives us pretty fast conditions. Our players arrived early enough to get used to the conditions.”
Even if the Canadian team has what it takes to go far in this competition, Fontang is well aware of the complexity of the task facing his team in the round robin stage.
“Our group is one of the strongest. I think there are three groups that stand out and ours is certainly one of them, so it will be very difficult. All the players are solid. Now, because of the timing of the Davis Cup, the results remain unpredictable. Some players have just taken a vacation following the last Masters 1000 of the year and so not everyone arrives with optimal preparation. Who knows, maybe it will make the competition even more interesting and unpredictable.”