Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Little Italy, Montreal. Each morning, Guillaume Marx makes the short walk from his home to Jarry Park and Stade IGA, where the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC) is based.
As Head of Performance, the 49-year-old is tasked – among many other duties – with overseeing Tennis Canada’s NTC and the organization’s National Junior Tennis Program (NTJP), where the country’s next generation of on-court stars begin their journey to the top.
Marx began his tennis journey in his native France. He grew up in Mulhouse, near the border of Germany and Switzerland, and was part of a very sporty family. However, poles, boots and goggles were more popular among his siblings as skiing was the sport of choice. That was, except for his mother, who loved tennis and inspired Marx to take up the sport.
Eventually, he turned pro but, in his own words, was “not that good” and, at 28 years old, decided coaching was the better career path. He said: “I started doing work for the French federation and got the opportunity to go full time pretty quickly. In 2002 I started at the national centre and stayed there for four years and one year at Roland Garros.”
During his time with the French Tennis Federation, Marx coached such players as Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. He also worked with another coach who Canadian tennis fans will be familiar with, Louis Borfiga – who, Marx says, had a “huge impact” on his career, especially due to the amount of trust he afforded him at an early age.
Then, in 2007, Marx had a big choice to make. Meeting with Tennis Canada President and CEO Michael Downey in Paris, he was offered the chance to follow Borfiga to North America. “I decided to take a huge challenge and go to Canada,” he said. “Louis was there and I had already worked with him. He wanted me to apply to a position at the National Tennis Centre in Montreal and I said yes, started in August 2007.”
Marx served as Tennis Canada’s Head Boys National Coach for 14 years until this Fall when Borfiga retired and Marx took on increased responsibility within Tennis Canada’s high-performance structure. He now reports directly to Senior Vice President of High-Performance Development, Hatem McDadi.
“I’m trying to learn these different responsibilities that I have,” Marx commented. “The pandemic has had a huge impact on Canadian tennis, we lost almost two years, and I feel like it is almost good timing [to come into the role] because there is almost a restart to what we’re doing. So, while we are obviously not starting from scratch, it feels like there is a lot to do. I’m just focussing on what needs to be done for Canadian tennis and I’m really enjoying working with the strong team we have.”
Looking ahead to the future, Marx outlined his plans for the NTC and NTJP. While the strategy for both is geared towards identifying, developing and producing Canada’s top tennis talent, there is a clear difference in approach.
“My vision for the National Junior Tennis Program is a lot about filling gaps,” Marx said. “To be there, present and know what everybody is doing throughout the whole player pathway, filling gaps that they have in terms of volume, quality, intensity and playing opportunity at a good level. We try to be quite inclusive of players at that age and fill gaps as much as we can.
“Then, for the NTC, we get more selective. At 17, players will have to make a choice of going for the pro career or going to university. So, we need to start being more selective because we have a centre which exists to help them take complete charge of their development and every asset that they have will be developed to the higher level.”
Speaking about the dedication that’s required by the NTC athletes, he added: “It’s a sacrifice. It takes time. Everybody that achieves a high level has made sacrifices as well. We are trying to create a centre at the highest level and that requires intensity, engagement and at the same time having a place where there is education where you become a good person. It’s important to have that balance.”
The current crop of players at the NTC is highly rated and their stock is rising both in Canada and abroad. “The No. 1 junior player in Canada is Jaden Weekes and he’s still committed to the ITF mostly,” Marx said. “We also have four girls, the transition girls who are in this group. They are a little bit younger but already four of them are ranked in the Top 100.”
Meet the 2021-22 NTC class in the video below: