Photo : Tennis Canada
As it turns out, Bianca’s (dirt) road to Roland-Garros will snake through northern Italy and France.
It’s been a pretty strange and improbable year for her. A tale to which she keeps adding new monthly chapters.
No need to revisit the injury that brought her extraordinary 2019 season to an end or the pandemic that forced the tennis world into hiatus in 2020. Just as it is for Leylah Annie Fernandez (scroll down), the current season remains a string of highs and lows with its fair share of bad luck.
To start things off, Bianca’s comeback at the Australian Open ended up being a two-match affair. On top of the 15 months spent off the courts, her time in Melbourne amounted to mandatory quarantine and no time to prepare.
In the semi of the Phillip Island Trophy (WTA 250) and the final in Miami a month later (WTA 1000), she wowed us all with her shimmering comeback. Then, in a twist of fate and foot, an injury abruptly cancelled what many had dubbed a dream final against Ashleigh Barty.
Fast-forward a few weeks later. With her ankle back to normal, the 21-year-old was about to get her clay court season underway when she tested positive for COVID-19. That meant another ruined return and more time in quarantine in the Spanish capital.
Still in Spain on May 10, Bianca’s coach Sylvain Bruneau was reassuring when asked about her ankle: “The injury is in the past. It’s behind us.”
So, what’s next? “We’re considering different options before Roland-Garros,” affirmed Bruneau. Bianca is entered in the draws in Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy and Strasbourg in northwestern France.
After bypassing key events in Madrid and Rome, she’s found a logical way to reroute to Paris. The competition may be less fierce, but the two tournaments are perfect refreshers.
And as she proved earlier this year, she’s quick to find her bearings.
Vote for Leylah!
The first five months of 2021 were a bit of a rollercoaster for Canada’s rising star Leylah Annie Fernandez.
A few notable ups are her title at the WTA 250 in Monterrey, Mexico and triumphant ride as the leader of the Canadian contingent at Billie Jean King Cup in Serbia.
Among the downs is her 4-8 record, with her last two losses coming in the qualifying events of the WTA 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome.
Even so, her epic tennis at Billie Jean King Cup this past April could bring her another honour. As Tennis Canada announced on May 7, Leylah is among the four finalists for the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award. Follow this link to VOTE for her. She’s certainly earned the nation’s support.
Her 2021 Heart nomination is actually the second in her very young career. Fellow Canadians Eugenie Bouchard and Bianca Andreescu also took home their respective Heart Award from the 2018 and 2017 Fed Cup events.
Leylah continues to gain experience, and her fighting spirit will enable her to overcome the setbacks. And let’s not forget that she’s still making her way through the broad spectrum of opponents on the women’s circuit. Since the start of the season, she’s risen from No. 88 to No. 70.
Allow me to put things into perspective for you: at the exact same age of 18 years and 8 months, Bianca Andreescu was World No. 71.
Most unbreakable records in tennis
Canadian hockey veteran Patrick Marleau recently surpassed legend Gordie Howe to set a record that many in the National Hockey League say is the most impressive of all: 1 768 NHL matches played. Sportsnet capitalized on this momentous occasion and compiled the most unbreakable records in sports.
A quick glance at the image reveals a glaring omission, so I began to wonder which tennis records were worthy of the list.
In tennis as in other sports, some records were set in a time when the reality was nothing like it is today. Beyond the athletes’ excellence and the quality of their equipment, the level of competition just wasn’t the same.
When Margaret Court won her 24 Grand Slam titles, the number of players in the draw was in no way comparable to what it is today.
The Australian won her national Slam 11 times, including 7 straight championships between 1960 and 1966, when Australians made up 83% of competitors! In 1960, 1961 and 1964, there were two non-Australians in the women’s draw. In 1962 and 1963, there were three.
Margaret Court’s 11 Australian Open crowns therefore carry less weight than, let’s say, Rafael Nadal’s record in Paris, where he faces some players from more than 20 nations year after year. (By the way, the King of Clay has raised the Coupe des Mousquetaires not 11 but 13 times.)
But I digress.
Which record is the most difficult to break? Is any tennis record shatterproof?
Let’s get back to Rafa’s 13 French Open titles. Will anyone ever top them? How about his winning percentage in Paris, which, by the way is a mindboggling 98.04% for his 100-2 record.
Will a player ever win 41 consecutive matches at a same major like Bjorn Borg at Roland-Garros (1979–81) or post 34 straight wins like Roger Federer at Wimbledon (2005–06 and 2017–18)?
Speaking of the FedExpress, he’s just six championships away from equalling Jimmy Connors’ record of 109 titles. With Roger’s career slowly winding down, only Rafael Nadal (86) and Novak Djokovic (82) are in the running (but running out of time) to break it.
The record for career wins is necessarily similar. Connors has 1 274 versus 1 243 for his nearest challenger, Federer. The Maestro could orchestrate things to smash the record but he needs to play more.
If you’re impressed by the ATP feats, wait until you see what the women of the WTA have achieved.
How about the only ace to win a Golden Slam in a single year? The great Steffi Graf in 1988.
Looking over the longer term, no player, man or woman, will ever get close to Martina Navratilova’s record of 344 titles (167 in singles, 177 in doubles). She’s also won 168 more matches than Jimmy Connors for a total of 1 442.
In 1983, Martina closed out the season at 86-1, just ahead of Steffi Graf (86-2 in 1989). On the men’s side, John McEnroe was 82-3 in 1984.
Now, back to Graf, who spent 377 weeks at No.1 (45 more than Martina Navratilova). Only Novak Djokovic comes close with 320 weeks. If he ever gets to Martina’s level, he’ll then have to find a way to make up for a 57-week gap to tie Graf!
Those are only some of tennis’ purportedly unbeatable records. Write to me to add your two cents or tell me which ones I forgot!
Roger Federer’s Switzerland
To mark Roger Federer’s return to the courts in Geneva at the ATP 250 from May 16 to 22 and start the countdown until we know whether he’ll be in it to win it at Roland-Garros, I’ve found a great book for you diehard fans.
Think you’ve read all there is to read about Rog? Then pick up this latest edition, which gets back to his roots and will certainly add to your wealth of knowledge.
Despite its title, this quick Swiss jaunt makes for easy reading, even if you aren’t a huge fan.
If you Google author Dave Seminara, don’t expect to find a sports journalist who’s covered every Major. His book happened by accident. Well, almost.
In 2017, illness forced Seminara to get some rest and to pause from his duties in the travel section of The New York Times.
But two years later, feeling better, he went to Switzerland to write a piece on this beautiful country.
After just a few days among the clockwork, gruyère, chocolate and edelweiss, he knew he had to write about how the player became the GOAT.
Unbeknownst to him, the trip would be Seminara’s last for a while, and Roger’s run at the Swiss Indoors in his home city of Basel would be among his last 11 matches before a long 18-month absence.
In early March, Seminara told Baseline:
“When I sat in a packed arena for the Swiss Indoors in Basel, there was no way to know that it could be years before I’ll have such an experience again. No one could have predicted that a plague was coming. And who the hell knew that Roger would play just two more tournaments between then and now?”In the Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts
Federer and De Niro: no drama
If reading isn’t your thing, here’s a 90-second video chock-full of Helvetian highlights including Federer himself, who teamed up with one of the greatest actors of all-time: Robert De Niro.
The two legends in their respective arenas recently joined forces as the new brand ambassadors for Switzerland Tourism. In a campaign that premiered on May 4, Fed works overtime trying to convince Bobby D to film their action-packed adventures in the country’s pastoral landscapes.
Condé Nast Traveler had the exclusive rights of first release. You can find out how the idea came about and get some Swiss travel tips from the man himself right here.
The ad was filmed at a sumptuous chalet in Zermatt. As De Niro and Federer chat via video call, viewers are treated to spectacular Swiss views and a towering special appearance by the Matterhorn.
“There’s no drama. No drama at all!”complains De Niro as he peers into his phone from his Tribeca building.
As if we needed another reason to travel to Switzerland!
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