leylah annie fernandez adelaide fist pump

Photo: Jimmie48 Photography | WTA

Screenshot : WTA TV

They’re a small but mighty contingent. Tough opponents who can sabotage any game plan simply because they hit contrary to 90% of players out there.

They’re the lefties.

As it so happens, Canada is well represented by two left-handers who are already back in action in 2022, so I’ve decided to take a closer look at the 10% who lean left. On the court, that is.

First, one of our favourite left-handers: Leylah Fernandez. She made her season début this week after a three-month break following her loss in Indian Wells last fall.

In full command ahead of the AO, she chalked up a brilliant win over No.34 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia (6-3, 6-1) on January 3 at the WTA 500 Adelaide International 1 event.

Screenshot : WTA TV

Our other favourite lefty Denis Shapovalov is also back after a bout with COVID-19 following his exhibition matches in Abu Dhabi, where he posted his second career win over yet another famous left-hander: Rafa Nadal.

At the ATP Cup, the Canadian skipped his first singles match but fought in doubles with Félix Auger-Aliassime in the nation’s 3-0 loss to the US.

Screenshot : TSN

In tennis, the scarcity of left-handed players is the very reason why they can be so tricky to play. Because most matches are right-hander versus right-hander, players can lose their bearings when they’re up against a lefty, in about 1 in 10 matches.

Of course, the lefties encounter the same challenge in the rare matches in which they face one of their own.

It’s therefore not surprising to see a right-handed player training with a lefty before facing one. “Coaches really put a high importance on finding a lefty,” Bob Bryan once told the New York Times. “Whenever Roger Federer plays a lefty, I’m the first guy to get a text message.”

Among the most notable advantages left-handed players can capitalize on is rotation.

And when lefties have a (left?) leg up, their serve out wide, which right-handers tend to have less success with, constitutes an extra weapon to lock in a game, set or match point.

Last March, SPORTCO took a look at the advantages and drawbacks of handedness.

Exactly how many lefties are out there? In the WTA Top 100, there are 8:

16 – Angelique Kerber (GER)

17 – Petra Kvitova (CZE)

24 – Leylah Fernandez (CAN)

35 – Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)

37 – Jill Teichmann (SUI)

64 – Arantxa Rus (NED)

83 – Beatriz Hadad Maia (BRA)

93 – Bernarda Pera (USA)

And 13 in the ATP:

6 – Rafael Nadal (ESP)

12 – Cameron Norrie (GBR)

14 – Denis Shapovalov (CAN)

35 – Ugo Humbert (FRA)

44 – Federico Delbonis (ARG)

45 – Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)

54 – Dominik Koepfer (GER)

71 – Adrian Mannarino (FRA)

74 – Guido Pella (ARG)

76 – Facundo Bagnis (ARG)

81 – Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN)

83 – Jiri Vesely (CZE)

92 – Corentin Moutet (FRA)

As far as GOAT left-handers based on Slams, titles and weeks and years at No.1 and in the Top 10, there’s Martina Navratilova, Rafael Nadal, Monica Seles, John McEnroe, Petra Kvitova, Jimmy Connors, Angelique Kerber, Rod Laver and Goran Ivanisevic. They’re in no particular order here, since these types of rankings are always up for debate.

I’ll leave you with a tweet by GOAT of GOATs Martina Navratilova, who came across this pic while moving.

Wimbledon Sydney whites

Photo : St. Catharines Standard

Félix Auger-Aliassime and his shoe and apparel partner Adidas had a surprise in store for fans. At the ATP Cup in Sydney, the Canadian wore his best tennis whites in his match against Taylor Fritz of the US.

It’s pretty rare for players to don the minimalist style required on Wimbledon’s hallowed courts outside the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

I must say, I like it.

As brands constantly compete to outfit their athletes in the brightest and boldest (to put it mildly) colours and prints, Adidas manages to shake things up and get back to basics with this most immaculate offering.

Mission: impossible

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to enter the AO, take on Novak Djokovic in the final and win. Good luck. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.

Cue the theme music.

That’s what I immediately thought of when I read what Andy Murray had to say to Sportklub about the upcoming Slam and World No.1’s bid to defend his title: “When it comes to Djokovic, the first thing that comes to mind is Australia. He’s untouchable there. It’s almost an impossible mission to beat him.”

Sir Andy speaks from experience, since he’s competed in five finals of the season-opening Slam.

He lost the first to Federer in 2010 and the next four to the Serbian superstar (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016), winning only 2 of 12 sets in a tiebreaker.

“The number of titles he has there is crazy,” Murray added thinking of Djokovic’s nine trophies in Melbourne. “Besides, it’s difficult to play against Novak on any surface. He’s very complete.”

As a consolation, Andy Murray managed to overpower Nole in the 2013 Wimbledon final and raise the Gentlemen’s Single Trophy.

The veteran shared his thoughts just a few days before being awarded a main draw wildcard by the AO.

It’s important to note that Murray spoke to the media outlet late last year, when Novak Djokovic was still refusing to say whether or not he’s been vaccinated and had yet to make a decision about Melbourne.

Lo and behold, on January 4, the World No.1 announced he would be defending his title thanks to a medical exemption (that has since been criticized by the tennis community).

The Master: update

It finally came in.

Two days before Christmas, my local bookstore called me to tell me the gift I’d given myself was in stock.

So, I made the most of the holiday break and return to COVID-19 restrictions to take some time out to read by the fire.

My review: 5 stars. A great way to start 2022.

Email: privard@tenniscanada.com

Twitter: @paul6rivard

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