Photo : Pierre-Paul Poulin / Journal de Montréal

Louis Borfiga, who spearheaded Tennis Canada’s elite development program, has been appointed to the Order of Canada—one of our nation’s highest honours meant to recognize service that has shaped our society.  

The recent semi-retiree will be honoured at an investiture ceremony held later this year along with the other 98 new appointees announced by Governor General Mary Simon.  

Anyone who has been fortunate enough to be acquainted with the Monaco native is familiar with his humility and habit of giving much of the credit to the people who surround him. So, his reaction to the news from the GG comes as no surprise.  

“When I got the message to call the Governor General’s office, I thought it was a prank. When I finally made up my mind, I spoke with a woman who told me the news and asked if I would accept. And I did, of course!” said the man many affectionately call Luigi, adding that he received the call in November and was asked to keep the information confidential.  

The appointment is very meaningful to Borfiga, who dedicated 15 years to creating a development structure for Canada’s tennis elite.  

“I’m obviously very proud and somewhat surprised to receive such a wonderful honour. It means a great deal to me,” he added.  

An extraordinary career 

Louis Borfiga came to Canada with the extensive expertise, knowledge and training methods he developed at the Institut National du Sport, de l’Expertise et de la Performance (INSEP) under the aegis of the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT). Under his leadership, talents including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon were discovered and then embarked on their careers. 

Photo : Bernard Brault / La Presse 

During his time here, from 2006 to 2021, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic, Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez all competed in Grand Slam finals, with Bianca winning the US Open and ranking in the Top 5, as did Bouchard and Raonic. In 2022, Canada placed three women and three men in the WTA and ATP Top 100, not to mention all the success of doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski. 

One of Canada’s sensational seven, World No.6 Félix Auger-Aliassime, recently wrapped up an incredible season in which he raised four winner’s trophies and led his teams to glory at the ATP Cup, Laver Cup and Davis Cup.  

In many ways, Borfiga brought his career full circle in Paris last November, when he sat with Sam Aliassime as Félix punched his ticket for a showdown against Gilles Simon.  

Image : TennisTV 

The following day, Auger-Aliassime brought the Frenchman’s career to an end.  

As a part-time advisor for the FFT, Louis Borfiga will continue to follow the Canadians from his Paris suburb. “They’re all still my kids. I keep in touch with several of them, including Bianca, Leylah, Félix, Milos and Vasek,” he affirmed.  

High praise 

At Tennis Canada, the news of the appointment was greeted with delight.  

Eugène Lapierre, who worked with Borfiga for the 15 years he spent here, underlined the tremendous influence he has had on Canadian tennis. 

“He didn’t just improve the structure: he changed the very core of the discourse. Today, we believe that if a player from Serbia, Spain or South America can ascend to the very top of the rankings, there’s no reason why a Canadian with similar physical and mental abilities couldn’t do the same. Simply put, there’s no reason why we couldn’t succeed.”  

The former tournament director of the National Bank Open also emphasized how our mindset has changed. “Canada was very happy to win two rounds at an international tournament or just to compete at Billie Jean King Cup or Davis Cup. But not anymore! We’ve proven we want to play in semis and finals and bring home titles,” he explained.  

Photo : Robert Skinner / La Presse 

Ask Hatem McDadi, senior vice-president of tennis development, about Louis Borfiga, and a very specific day in September 2019 comes to mind.  

“I remember when Bianca won the US Open, beating Serena Williams, on a Saturday, mid-afternoon, in pretty much weekend prime time. Almost eight million Canadians tuned in. I think that when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, the same amount of people were watching. It transcended tennis—it was about Canadian pride. Like when Mike Weir won the Masters Tournament. Those things matter to our nation.” 

McDadi’s thoughts ring even truer since Louis Borfiga is newly appointed to the Order of Canada with none other than Sid the Kid himself. 

Photo : Presse Sports / Mounic