Photo : changeovertennis.com
Pets are such an important part of millions of homes around the world.
And the tennis world is no exception. So much so that furry friends have become full-fledged members of quite a few tennis families.
In 2019—Bianca Andreescu’s breakout season—we discovered one of the best players in Canadian tennis history. And her entourage: her parents and Coco, the cute toy poodle everyone wants to pick up and cuddle.
More recently, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina was the face of the new Adoptas pet adoption campaign launched by his foundation.
So, if you’re wondering where I got the idea for this post, look no further.
In the same vein, about a year ago, in April 2022, our very own Denis Shapovalov, who lives with dogs Nika (a nod to his sponsor?) and Lucky and cats Rosa and Zeus, founded ShapoShelter.
“With the platform that I have, I think it’s perfect to give back and to give these animals a chance,” he told the Canadian Press in the week following the launch. “Obviously, with whatever followers I have, the more that we post about these animals, all these followers and fans are going to see the stories of these animals. It’s just going to give them a better chance to get adopted and have their stories heard.”
For ShapoShelter, he partnered with three animal rescues including the Humane Society of Greater Miami, which he visited last year.
“I’ve always just wanted to help out,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of brutal stories about how these animals are mistreated, and it’s honestly heartbreaking.”
On their socials, Denis and his girlfriend, Swedish ace Mirjam Bjorklund, rarely miss an opportunity to pose with their pets.
True to himself, the Canadian chose a protective Arctic wolf for the project’s logo.
When Denis first started out on the ATP Tour, his wolf stuffed animal Storm was always front and centre in his box with his coaches and mom Tessa Shapovalova.
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He was even asked about it an interview at the 2018 US Open. “On the court I like to think of myself kind of as an Arctic wolf. You’re out there by yourself, you’re hunting against your opponent, and you’re trying to get the better of him. I like to joke around off the court. When it’s down to business, when I’m hunting, when I’m on the court, I’m pretty fierce, intense. I show my teeth. I’m very emotional, very similar to a wolf,” he said.
With generosity come many, many friends. Literally.
Over the past year, the ratings for Shapovalov’s matches have been on the rise—among four-legged viewers.
Dozens and dozens of tennis players have pets. Here are just a few examples, starting with Kevin Anderson of South Africa and John Isner of the US, whose respective companions—Lady Kady and Magil—aren’t exactly proportional to their owners in terms of size.
What could be more natural than a dog playing fetch?
Of course, the next logical step is to take the game to the tennis court, where there are always plenty of balls rolling around. In 2015, the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, did just that at an exhibition match in which Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova graciously agreed to go head-to-head.
At the 2017 Brazil Open in Sao Paulo, local favourites Marcelo Demoliner and Joao Zwetsch shared a clay court with rescue dogs. Skip to 0:25 to see the unexpected incident that delayed the match.
The following year at the Champions Tennis tournament at London’s Royal Albert Hall, veterans Mansour Bahrami, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Henri Leconte and Mikael Pernfors relied on ball dogs Hattie, Tina and Melvin from the Canine Partners assistance dog training association.
Of course, animals enjoy other sports besides tennis.
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In the video below, you’ll see the butterfly that fell in love with Naomi Osaka and the pigeon that wanted to hang out with Rafa, as well as a bunch of other animals on a bunch of different playing fields. There are the usual birds, cats and dogs in tennis, baseball, soccer and football, as well as a few llamas, crocodiles and gorillas on pitches, golf courses and ball diamonds. There’s even a cow crossing the road during a bike race.
Hubert’s hot shot
At the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, Hubert Hurkacz hit the shot of the month—and possibly of the entire season.
Caught at mid-court and facing down a textbook lob launched by Alexander Bublik, Hurkacz hustled to the baseline and, despite the distance between his racquet and the ball, managed to hit a tweener down the line with his back to the net that totally bewildered his opponent.
The usually mercurial Bublik could only smile at Hurkacz’s prowess.
A haka for Gasquet
No, Richard Gasquet and this Māori man aren’t showing a lack of respect.
The tennis player is happy because he’s just defeated Cameron Norrie to win a title, and the warrior is part of a group that performed a typical and unique ceremonial dance to hand out the winner’s trophy.
It all went down in Auckland, New Zealand, on January 14.
Many will recognize the traditional haka carried out by the indigenous Polynesian people. If you’re a fan of the All Blacks, you’ve seen the team perform a haka—a Māori challenge—before every match.
In this case, the haka was meant to honour Gasquet for winning the 16th title of his career and his first since June 17, 2018.
A nice California white
In Canada, we’re used to seeing tennis courts with a snow cover.
But in Napa, California? Not so much.
Still, that’s exactly what Californians were stuck with after a rare winter storm on February 24.
How can you be sure the top photo was taken there and not here?
Easy: we never leave the nets up!
Follow all our Canadians in action here.