Tennis Canada announced on Wednesday that Milos Raonic and Leylah Annie Fernandez are the winners of the 2020 Excellence Awards in the categories of Male Player of the Year and Female Player of the Year, respectively. They also take home the honours for Singles Players of the Year and Fernandez adds Most Improved Player to cap-off her successful 2020 campaign. In addition, Gabriela Dabrowski and Denis Shapovalov have been named as the Doubles Players of the Year while Vasek Pospisil is the Most Improved Player on the men’s side.
“We would like to offer sincere congratulations to all of the recipients of this year’s Tennis Canada Excellence Awards,” stated Michael Downey, President and CEO at Tennis Canada. “2020 has been a very trying year, which saw the tennis season come to a halt for a few months, bringing tournaments and training to a standstill. And while not all our players were able to make a return to the courts, notably our junior, senior and wheelchair players, our athletes competing on the professional tour managed to put together some impressive performances.
“It was a very close race in the men’s category, as both Milos and Denis had stellar seasons” added Downey. “The recognition for their efforts throughout the year is very well deserved. On the women’s side, 2020 was a breakout season for Leylah, as she made waves on the professional tour and proved that she can compete with the best in the world, despite her young age. Vasek and Gaby also continued to progress this past year, bringing their level of play to new heights. And after getting through such a tough year, our players are ready to take on anything that 2021 brings their way.”
Raonic takes home this honour for the eighth time in his career, inching his way closer to Daniel Nestor’s record 10 wins. The 29-year-old Canadian reached the final at the Western & Southern Open, his first Masters 1000 final since 2016. He also notched a number of wins over Top 20 players, reached the semi-finals in Paris, finished the season with a record of 23 wins and only 9 losses and moved back into the Top 20 in the rankings. He was also nominated as one of the ATP’s Comeback Players of the Year. It was an extremely close decision between Raonic and Shapovalov, as both had exceptional seasons.
For her part, Fernandez takes home the top honours for the very first time, having been named Junior Player of the Year in 2019. Her transition to playing on the professional tour full-time did not go unnoticed, as she captured the attention of the tennis world on numerous occasions, including her win over No. 5 Belinda Bencic at the Billie Jean King Cup as well as her run to the final in Acapulco. The 18-year-old also cracked into the Top 100, ending the year ranked at no. 88.
Shapovalov, Dabrowski and Pospisil also honoured
In 2020, Shapovalov had a lot of success playing in singles and doubles. He cracked the Top 10 in singles for the first time in his career and went on deep runs in New York and Rome. He also continued to prove himself as a proficient doubles player. He reached three doubles quarter-finals this season, in Marseille, New York and Rome as well as the semi-finals in Rotterdam. Shapovalov also notched some big wins over top doubles players on tour, notably over the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles players in the world in Rome. His strong performances allowed him to finish the season ranked No. 49 in doubles.
Finishing the season in the doubles Top 10 for a third consecutive year, Dabrowski is the best doubles player in the country and one of the recognized specialists on the WTA tour. She reached three WTA doubles finals this year, in Adelaide, Doha and Ostrava. Moreover, she went on deep runs to the quarter-finals at both the Australian Open and US Open as well as the semi-finals in mixed doubles in Australia. During the hiatus in the tennis season, she also competed in the World Team Tennis events as one of the key players for the Orange County Breakers.
After a strong end to his 2019 comeback season, Pospisil continued his momentum into 2020, notably reaching two ATP finals in Montpellier and Sofia. Some of his top wins of the year were over the likes of David Goffin and Daniil Medvedev as well as victories over his compatriots, Shapovalov, Raonic and Félix Auger-Aliassime. The 30-year-old Canadian has also been nominated as one of the ATP’s Comeback Players of the Year.
Other categories not awarded this year
While professional tennis was able to make a return in the summer of 2020, the same cannot be said for junior, senior and wheelchair tennis. As tournaments began to resume in June, a number of them continued to be cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. Our junior and wheelchair players were deprived of international competition for the majority of the season and therefore no awards will be handed out in these categories for 2020. Despite the lack of tournaments, these players remained committed to their training throughout the year, preparing for the 2021 Grand Slam events, World Championships and Paralympic Games. Due to the pandemic and the great number of postponed and cancelled events, there will be no coaching or officiating awards for 2020.