Photo : Canadian Paralympic Committee
While much of the attention of Canadian tennis fans was on Team Canada presented by Sobeys’ title defence in Malaga last week, another Canadian was looking for a second big title of his own.
And he came agonizingly close to bringing gold back to Canada.
Here’s what you need to know.
Under the Radar: Shaw’s Silver Lining
Rob Shaw brought home Canada’s lone medal in Wheelchair Tennis at the 2023 Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, taking the silver medal in the quad singles.
Six Canadians were competing in Santiago, Chile, but only Shaw made it to the medal rounds. In the gold medal match, he fell in a hard-fought, two-hour, 19-minute battle with local favourite Francisco Cayulef. It is Shaw’s second Parapan Am medal, having won gold in singles in 2019.
“I left it all out there, I’m super proud with what I put out there,” said Shaw after the match. “I thought it was good quality tennis, I thought it was entertaining. At the end of the day as an athlete, that’s all I can hope for.”
In the final, Shaw had to contend not just with his opponent, but with the partisan Chilean crowd. Even though the fans were primarily on Cayulef’s side, Shaw admitted that he just enjoyed playing in front of a big crowd, which is rare for wheelchair athletes. He also pointed to the Canadians in the fans in attendance as helping to motivate him.
Shaw mounted a late comeback in the second set to push the match to a decider, but his Chilean had just a little bit too much in the third set, hanging on for a tight 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win.
“It was good tennis. I don’t leave those matches feeling sad or disappointed. I wanted to win, but I got beat. I didn’t play that badly. I can live with that. It was close, a couple of points out there. Tennis is cruel that way. A couple of lines, a couple of bounces.”
Here is the full list of Canada results from Santiago:
- Men’s Singles
- Thomas Venos: Second Round
- Barry Henderson: First Round
- Women’s Singles
- Natalia Lanucha: Second Round
- Anne-Marie Dolinar: First Round
- Quad Singles:
- Rob Shaw: Silver Medal
- Mitch McIntyre: Quarter-Finals
- Men’s Doubles:
- Henderson/Venos: Quarter-Finals
- Women’s Doubles:
- Dolinar/Lanucha: Quarter-Finals
- Quad Doubles:
- McIntyre/Shaw: Quarter-Finals
Canada did have one athlete finish with top honours in the tennis world last week, that being Layne Sleeth who won the doubles title at the ITF W40 event in Guadalajara with American Haley Giavara.
Sleeth and Giavara did not drop a set on their way to the title, beating the second-seeded team in the final. It is the first professional doubles title of Sleeth’s career and her first ITF title of any kind since 2019.
In Case You Missed It: Canada Slips, Sinner Shines
A year ago, Canada finished the year with a bang by securing their first Davis Cup title. Unfortunately, they were unable to double-dip in Malaga as the champions saw their reign came to an end in the quarter-finals of the 2023 Davis Cup Final 8 at the hands of Finland.
Team Canada was banged up and, despite a spectacular performance from Milos Raonic, ultimately did not have enough to make another run in Southern Spain. Gabriel Diallo lost the second singles match and Canada’s fate was sealed when Alexis Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil dropped the deciding doubles match.
Their road to recapturing the trophy in 2024 will start on home soil when Canada hosts South Korea at a to-be-determined venue the first weekend of February in the qualifying round.
Italy left Malaga with the trophy after a heroic performance from National Bank Open champion Jannik Sinner.
The world No. 4 won all five of his matches, three in singles and two in doubles, accounting for five of Italy’s six points including the decisive match to clinch the title over Alex de Minaur of Australia in the final.
Sinner’s masterpiece came in the semifinals, when he defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic twice in a day, including a singles win from 4-5, love-40 down in the third set, to advance to the final.
It is Italy’s second title at the Davis Cup and first since 1976.
What to Watch: Finishing with the Future
Only one event remains on the ATP calendar in 2023. That is the Next Gen ATP Finals which take place this week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
19-year-old Arthur Fils, ranked 36th in the world, is the top seed at the event which features eight players 21 or younger. The top four players under the age of 21 on tour (Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune, Ben Shelton, and Lorenzo Musetti) all took a pass on the event.
The Next Gen ATP Finals follows the same format as the ATP Finals, with a Group Stage followed by a knockout round for the top two players in each group.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.