Following a tremendous 12 months for Canadian tennis, reaching the inaugural Fed Cup Finals in Budapest would represent yet another stride towards fulfilling the country’s vision of becoming a world-leading tennis nation.
“It would mean a lot,” team captain Heidi El Tabakh confirmed at her pre-tie press conference in the Media Centre at the Swiss Tennis Arena. “That’s the goal, to be in the Finals, obviously. I think Canadian tennis in general has had a great year and if we can continue to improve and have great results then that would be a great goal.”
However, in order to reach that goal, Canada must first navigate a tough Qualifiers tie against Switzerland in Biel. Heidi’s opposing captain, Heinz Günthardt, has a strong team at his disposal, comprising of Belinda Bencic, Jil Teichmann, Timea Bacsinszky, Stefanie Voegele and Victorija Golubic.
“It’s a great team,” said Heidi. “I think it’s their best players and I think we’re up against a very tough challenge, especially playing in an away tie. But I think our girls are ready and we’re doing our homework so it’s definitely going to be a tough challenge that we’re up for.”
Team Canada – which consists of Bianca Andreescu, Gaby Dabrowski, Eugenie Bouchard and Leylah Annie Fernandez – has been training on the hard courts of the Swiss Tennis Arena in recent days. Meanwhile, much of the media’s attention has been focussed on whether Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion will be fit to play after missing the start of the 2020 season through injury.
“She is improving everyday; we’re taking it day by day,” El Tabakh said of Andreescu’s chances. “She still has a couple of days left. As of right now, we haven’t made any decisions yet about the team, but we will when the time comes.”
The tie in Biel represents El Tabakh’s third as Team Canada captain. Her first experience in the role was a resounding success as she led the team to an impressive 4-0 victory over the Netherlands last February. Her second tie provided a much sterner test – an away clash against the then-reigning champion Czech Republic in Prostejov which saw Canada fall to a 4-0 defeat.
“It’s been great,” she answered when asked how she’s found the role. “I’ve definitely enjoyed it. Every tie is a learning experience for me. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by a great team. I have Nathalie (Tauziat) by my side, she’s been a great mentor and I’ve learned a lot from Sylvain (Bruneau), the former Fed Cup captain.
“This is something that I really enjoy, I know the players well and too bad for me it’s only twice a year, but I really look forward to these ties and the week leading up to the tie as well.”