Last fall, Canada tasted glory with a victory at the Davis Cup. Next week, the nation’s best wheelchair tennis players begin their quest to add to the Great White North’s growing legacy in international play.
Americas qualification for the World Team Cup, the wheelchair equivalent of the Davis and Billie Jean King Cups, takes place next week in Puebla, Mexico and the Canadians will be there looking to book their place in the World Group event in May.
The 2023 edition of the World Team Cup marks a return to the competition for Canada, after COVID-19 restrictions kept them out of the 2022 event.
This year, Canada is looking to return in a big way by sending their top three players in both the men’s and women’s wheelchair rankings.
On the men’s side, the team features world No. 59 Thomas Venos of Anmore, B.C., No. 88 Barry Henderson of Mission, B.C., and No. 191 Shawn Courchesne of Toronto, ON.
“It’s good to be back representing Canada at a World Team Cup event,” said Canadian No. 1 Venos. “[It’s] been a few years since the last time and I feel like the team has improved a lot. We will have a good chance at qualifying for the finals.”
The best result for the Canadian men at the World Team Cup came in 2000 when they came eighth.
“I am so looking forward to participating in my second World Team Cup qualification,” said Henderson. “It is such an honour to represent my country internationally and I am so thankful for the opportunity that Wheelchair Tennis at Tennis Canada has provided for me and my teammates. These events are always an amazing celebration of the camaraderie between nations and the athletic achievement of some of the best wheelchair tennis players from the Americas.”
While it has only been a few years since the Canadian men tried their hand at qualification, it has been over a decade since the Canadian women last participated.
Like their male counterparts, Anne-Marie Dolinar (world No. 48) of Toronto, ON, Natalia Lanucha (No. 56) of Montreal, QC, and Candice Combdon of Barrie, ON (No. 101) are the top three Canadians in the world rankings and will be representing their country next week in Mexico. They are captained by Sarah Hunter.
“I’m so excited to be competing at my first WTC qualifiers and my first event as part of the national team,” said Dolinar. “[I] can’t wait to see what our women’s team can accomplish together.”
Canada’s best result on the women’s side was a fourth-place finish in 2006.
Eight countries are competing in the men’s competition, with only six on the women’s side. Canada is one of five countries sending both a men’s and women’s team, along with Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru.
“Tennis Canada is delighted to field both a men’s and a women’s team to this years WTC qualifiers,” said men’s team captain Kai Schrameyer. “We will be facing strong competition from the other participating nations. Things are gradually getting back to normal after the disruption caused through the COVID pandemic and it’s great to see Canadians competing in international events again at all levels.”
Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala are sending just a men’s team, while Chile will be only represented by their women’s squad.
For the qualifying event, teams will be divided into two groups and will play a round robin. The group winners will then play in the final, with the victory clinching a spot in May’s World Group.
Qualifying will run from Feb. 13 to 16.