Photo: Jared Wickerham / Tennis Canada
Tennis Canada announced on Monday that National Bank, one of its major partners for several years, has established a grant program in order to provide assistance to professional tennis players, wheelchair players and junior players in transition towards the professional circuit who are particularly affected by the extended pause in the tennis season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program will benefit 23 Canadian athletes, who have been without income since the beginning of March and who will continue to be until at least August and potentially for the rest of the calendar year. To be eligible for the program, players must be ranked between 100 and 750 in the world in singles or ranked between 25 and 100 in doubles in the ATP and WTA rankings, ranked in the Top 100 in the ITF junior rankings or in the Top 50 in the ITF wheelchair rankings.
In recent weeks, the tennis world is talking more and more about the financial difficulties related to this crisis for all tennis players ranked outside of the Top 100 and who must continue to pay bills like every other citizen. These athletes are becoming increasingly worried as the tennis hiatus keeps getting extended and uncertainty continues to surround their return of play. Sensitive to their situation, National Bank has decided to assist them with a grant program that will benefit 23 Canadian tennis players. The amounts of the grants will be determined based on ranking and will vary between $10,000 and $20,000 per athlete.
“National Bank has been a vital partner in our sport for 15 years now. Over the past few years, their unwavering support has aided the development of numerous players of all ages and the establishment of this assistance program for Canadian athletes demonstrates National Bank’s dedication and passion for tennis,” stated Michael Downey, President and CEO at Tennis Canada. “We know that these grants will make an important difference for these athletes who have been without income for many months, who still need to cover training and everyday living costs and who do not know when they will be in a position to begin playing the sport that they love while trying to earn a living. It is already difficult for these athletes to make a decent living and this pandemic has unfortunately worsened their situation.”
“Our commitment to Canadian tennis runs deep. Our athletes are continuing to have standout performances at all levels of competition and we are very proud of them. They are at a pivotal stage in their development and that is why it is important to support them financially during these difficult times. With this gesture, we are encouraging them to pursue the development of their talent and their ambitions,” said Lucie Blanchet, Executive Vice-President, Personal and Customer Experience at National Bank.
LIST OF RECIPIENTS
|Rob Shaw (no. 9 in quads, wheelchair tennis)||Alexis Galarneau (no. 559)|
|Mitch McIntyre (no. 28 in quads, wheelchair tennis)||Carson Branstine (no. 577)|
|Sharon Fichman (no. 48 in doubles)||Layne Sleeth (no. 596)|
|Leylah Annie Fernandez (no. 118)||Benjamin Sigouin (no. 606)|
|Steven Diez (no. 168)||Kelsey Stevenson (no. 663)|
|Brayden Schnur (no. 177)||Ariana Arseneault (no. 740)|
|Peter Polansky (no. 192)||Raphaëlle Lacasse (no. 748)|
|Katherine Sebov (no. 256)||Mélodie Collard (no. 25 in juniors)|
|Françoise Abanda (no. 298)||Jada Bui (no. 26 in juniors)|
|Rebecca Marino (no. 300)||Annabelle Xu (no. 92 in juniors)|
|Filip Peliwo (no. 339)||Joshua Lapadat (no. 97 in juniors)|
|Carol Zhao (no. 527)||–|
Reactions from the players
Leylah Annie Fernandez
“I am just a 17-year-old girl working hard to achieve her dream of becoming a professional tennis player. I believe that I began this year on the right track, but due to these unfortunate circumstances, it was cut short. In all honesty, being alone on this journey can be difficult at times so receiving this grant has given me a lot of motivation again. I am extremely grateful for this support from Tennis Canada and National Bank during these difficult times. Although I am miles away from my hometown of Montreal, this grant reminds me of the pride that I have in being part of the Tennis Canada family and being a Canadian.”
“I am truly grateful for the support that National Bank, my federation and my country has offered myself and other tennis players who have been directly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. These funds will help lessen the hardships that lie ahead and pay for coaching and travel expenses once the tour resumes. These are unprecedent times that we are facing, and this grant is a positive contribution that will help ensure our dreams remain alive.”
“These are unfamiliar and unprecedented times for many athletes. The National Bank Grant Program is not only critical for maintaining the wellbeing of Canadian athletes, but it demonstrates a commitment and belief in our future success. Without this program, many of us would be facing difficult living conditions let alone training conditions. We as athletes can’t thank National Bank enough for their unwavering support and belief in us.”
“I am at a loss for words. Thank you is simply not enough to express the gratitude and appreciation that I feel. These funds will help tremendously to alleviate some of the financial stresses caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The support from National Bank and Tennis Canada in these unprecedented times will lessen the hardships caused by this pandemic and help ensure that I continue to pursue my goals and dreams. I cannot thank National Bank enough for their generosity.”
“I would like to thank National Bank for their support, which is certainly appreciated. This grant will help me find a coach who can train and support me during this crisis and will also help me financially with upcoming tournaments, once the ATP resumes play. I am managing to keep a positive attitude during these difficult times and I am trying to take advantage of time spent at home. This assistance from National Bank encourages me to not give up and to continue training to achieve my goal of being among the best players on tour.”
In addition to financially supporting Tennis Canada, National Bank is investing in the realization of several of the non-profit’s tennis development initiatives, both for young athletes and for the community. For instance, the National Bank Little Aces initiation program is aimed at young children between the ages of six and eight; development tournaments such as the National Bank Challenger events, held in five cities across Canada are, for many young players, their first experience on the international professional circuit and present an opportunity to gain valuable ranking points; without forgetting the prestigious Rogers Cup presented by National Bank with which they have been a partner for 15 years now.