Photo: camerawork usa
Canada ends the year with six players ranked in the Top 50, a Grand Slam singles finalist and two WTA 1000 doubles champions
On Tuesday, Tennis Canada took stock of the past season as Michael Downey, President and CEO, Hatem McDadi, Senior Vice President of High Performance Development, Eva Havaris, Vice President of Participation and Partnerships, Sylvain Bruneau, Head of Women’s Pro and Transition Tennis and Guillaume Marx, Head of Performance, looked back at the highlights of 2021 and ahead to 2022. Despite the many events that were cancelled this past year due to the repercussions of COVID-19, in total 11 titles were won by Canadians on the professional tour, three in singles and eight in doubles. Click here to see the Canadian tennis season by numbers. Watch the press conference in full:
Leylah’s breakout year
It has been a year to remember for Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC). Starting the year ranked No. 88 in singles on the WTA Tour, she had a breakout season which resulted in her jumping to a career-high of No. 24 by November. Fernandez won the first WTA title of her career at the Abierto GNP Seguros 250 event in March, beating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-4 in the final, and played a key role in Team Canada’s 4-0 win over Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs in April. Her biggest highlight, however, came at the US Open, where she beat three Top 5-ranked opponents to reach her first Grand Slam singles final, losing to Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu.
Grand Slam success stories
Aside from Fernandez’s spectacular run in New York, there were plenty of other Grand Slam success stories for Canadian players in 2021. Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon, losing only to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in a tightly contested match, while Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal, QC) made it all the way to the final four at the US Open before being beaten by Daniil Medvedev. In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) also reached the US Open semis alongside partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil. Indeed, at the US Open alone, four Canadians reached at least the third round, which is a first in Canadian tennis history at a Grand Slam event. In Fernandez, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, Canada was also one of just three nations – along with Russia and the Czech Republic – to have three unique Grand Slam singles semi-finalists throughout the year.
Six players in the Top 50
Canada closed the season with six players in the Top 50. Coming out on top is Dabrowski who, at a career-high No.5 in the world, is the highest ranked Canadian women’s doubles player ever. Next up at No. 11 on the ATP Tour is Auger-Aliassime, followed closely by Shapovalov at No. 14. Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) is at a career-high No. 22 in doubles, while Fernandez, following her spectacular season, is at a career-high No. 24 on the WTA Tour in singles. Rounding out the half-dozen Canadians in the Top 50, Bianca Andreescu (Mississauga, ON) – who returned to action in 2021 after a layoff due to injury and reached the Miami Open in April – is at No. 46.
Doubles delight for Dabrowski and Fichman
It was a highly successful season for Canadian doubles specialists Dabrowski and Fichman, both of whom won WTA 1000 events at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers and Internazionali BNL d’Italia respectively. Dabrowski and Stefani’s run to the title in Montreal included victories over top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, as well as No. 6 seeds Anreja Klepac and Darija Jurak in the championship match. Along with regular doubles partner Giuliana Olmos, Fichman also qualified for the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico to round off an impressive calendar year. Dabrowski and Fichman teamed up at the Olympics to represent Team Canada in Tokyo.
The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team presented by Sobeys enjoyed early success in April when they defeated Serbia 4-0 in a Play-Off tie. That result, along with the team’s ranking, would ultimately seal their place at the Finals in November as they replaced former host nation Hungary in the draw. The team finished the Finals with a 1-1 record in its group which was not enough to qualify for a semi-finals place. Meanwhile, the Canadian Davis Cup team presented by Sobeys were also knocked out of the Davis Cup Finals at the group stage following loses to Sweden and Kazakhstan in Madrid, Spain. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Auger-Aliassime, Fernandez, Dabrowski, Fichman and Rob Shaw (North Bay, ON) all represented Team Canada. The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team will be back in action in April 2022 at home to Latvia, whilst the Davis Cup team will face the Netherlands in March.
(Re)building a tennis nation
After two very challenging years, Tennis Canada can finally look ahead to brighter horizons in 2022 and increase its support at all levels of Tennis Development, including its High-Performance program, national competitions, coach development as well as grassroots and community tennis initiatives, which were all impacted due to the financial and restrictive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read more about the state of tennis in Canada as well as Tennis Canada’s financial position.