Photo : ATP Tour

Canada’s biggest names in men’s tennis have now spent over two years in the ATP Top 20. That’s 30 months for Denis Shapovalov and 26 (minus about 10 weeks) for Félix Auger-Aliassime. 

They’ve each earned a title, and Félix has seven more finals (10) than Denis (3).  

As a duo, they’ve been pretty successful. The 2019 Davis Cup Final and 2022 ATP Cup are fantastic highlights in their young careers.   

So, we know how they play. 

But do we know what they play with?  

The writers over at peRFect Tennis have devoted an entire section to the racquets used by the pros in the ATP, and that’s where I found all the details on Félix’s tools of the trade. 

For as long as there have been articles on the prodigious Canadian, there have been photos of him holding a Babolat racquet. Here’s just one example taken at the 2015 Granby Challenger, when he was only 14 and just starting to overpower the top seeds. 

Photo : Sarah-Jade Champagne 

Félix still plays with a Babolat racquet, more specifically the Pure Aero VS, just like No.72 Holger Rune of Denmark and No.11 Carlos Alcaraz.  

Note that the VS designation is an important one, since it means a different structure and weight and better control. 

Photo : AP 

As far as strings, FAA likes Babolat RPM Rough with a tension of 23 kg (about 51 lb). They’re similar to the RPM Blast preferred by superstar spokesperson Rafa Nadal. Félix gets more spin and control and added durability. 

Photo : AFP 

The website hasn’t covered Denis Shapovalov’s racquet yet, but I’ve found a few specifics at Tennisnerd. The info is from last year, but it’s likely still consistent with what he plays with today. 

Shapo’s chosen the Yonex VCORE 95 with Yonex Poly Tour Strike strings at 21 kg (46 lb). 

Photo : 

He initially played with Wilson racquets as a junior and made the switch to the pros and to Yonex in 2017.

Today, he’s among the highest-ranking players recruited by the Japanese equipment manufacturer, who’s also signed Naomi Osaka, Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, Angelique Kerber, Frances Tiafoe, Belinda Bencic, Nick Kyrgios, Camila Giorgi, Stan Wawrinka and Eugenie Bouchard. 

Genie at RG ?

Photo : Twitter 

Speaking of Genie, she could be coming back very soon, having confirmed her presence for the French Open qualifiers, in Roland-Garros, in the third week of May. 

Bouchard would even have reconnected with her former coach, her very first mentor, the American Nick Saviano. 

These details were revealed by the “Open Court” website, on April 19.  

As a bonus, some details on her shoulder surgery as well as the recovery from such an injury by other well-known players.

Bouchard has not played in a tournament since March of last year. 

Fresh start for Leylah? 

Photo : Presse Canadienne 

After a so-so spring, Leylah Fernandez just got the huge confidence boost she needed.  

She swept her Latvian rivals in Vancouver last weekend and booked Canada’s ticket to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals this November.  

The fact that her opponents were No.389 Darja Semenistaja and No.267 Daniela Vismane doesn’t diminish the significance of what Fernandez accomplished. The 19-year-old, who currently sits at No.21, effectively brought a three-match losing streak to an end and took on the leadership role everyone expected her to in front of the home crowd.   

In 2022, excluding the title she successfully defended in Monterrey, she had a 5-8 record that probably wasn’t part of her plan to break into the Top 10.  

These days, Leylah’s been going from surface to surface. In just over a month, she played on hard courts in Miami, on clay in Charleston and on the indoor hard courts at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.  

Now, she’s off to Madrid. Fingers crossed she’ll quickly adapt to the dirt, where she’ll be spending the next few weeks.  

That said, there’s no doubt her two wins in Vancouver were a great lift, especially since confidence accounts for at least 75% of a professional athlete’s success.

WTA: Deep talent pool

Photo : WTA

In the weeks following her rise to the apex of the WTA rankings, Iga Swiatek has dismantled every opponent she’s faced. But how long can she keep the momentum going? 

Coming off 17 straight wins, including her Sunshine Double, she competed in last weekend’s Billie Jean King Cup and sent Poland straight to the November Finals with two uncompromising wins over her Romania rivals. 

The 20-year-old World No.1 defeated No.123 Mihaela Buzarnescu (6-1, 6-0) in 56 minutes and No.324 Andreea Prisacariu (6-0, 6-0) in 53 minutes. Neither competitor was of her caliber, but Iga stayed focused, spending less than 1:10 on the court and dropping only one game.  

So, what’s next? Will she continue to reign for a year? For two years? For three and half years without interruption like Steffi Graf and Serena Williams?   

Or will the crown be passed from head to head seven times or more, like it was over the past five years?   

Or will it be something in between?  

On the eve of the final in Miami, tennis great and Eurosport expert Justine Henin weighed in.  

Photo : Facebook 

The three-time World No.1 (2003, 2006, and 2007), who held sway for 117 weeks, is divided.  

Acknowledging that Swiatek’s personality and freshness should make her a great No.1, Henin also wished for more rivalry and more consistency. “In terms of popularity, I’m not sure the public is very familiar with a player like Paula Badosa, for example. We want rivalries and titles to add more punch to women’s tennis,” she said. 

That’s certainly a major debate in tennis and plenty of other sports.  

Some fans love dynasties and dominant athletes, and some fans want a more level playing field so the competition keeps that element of unknown and surprise. 

For the past four years, ever since Serena Williams—the supreme ruler of the WTA from 2013 to 2017—has been moving further and further away from the game, women’s tennis has been at a crossroads. We thought Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty would take the reins for a while, but they didn’t.

Photo : Getty 

Have we reached the end of the long tenures?  

Here’s a look at the four most dominant players of the past 50 years, the total number of weeks they spent at No.1 and their consecutive weeks at the top. I added Ashleigh Barty as a recent reference.  

TotalLongest Streak
Chris Evert260113 
Martina Navratilova332156 
Steffi Graf377186
Serena Williams319186
Ashleigh Barty12186

The upper hand with the underarm  

Kyrgios, Bublik and anyone else who has a penchant for serving underarm better watch out: there’s a new server in town.  

His name is Adrian Andreev, and he’s a 20-year-old Bulgarian ace who won the junior doubles title at the 2018 US Open.  

Currently ranked No.416, Andreev was competing in the second round of the Sarasota Challenger when he mystified Tung-Ling Wu with a totally unexpected underarm serve without even bothering to bounce the ball beforehand. When Wu complained he wasn’t ready, the chair ump shot him down but still said the serve was at the limit of what’s acceptable.  

Life on the red planet 

Image : TennisTV 

No, that isn’t an image by the Mars helicopter Ingenuity. It’s actually an extreme closeup of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina’s tennis top after his win over Novak Djokovic on April 13.

Images : TennisTV 

As the No.46, the Spaniard stood out for his combativeness in his very first triumph over the No.1. With every desperate dive to reach the impossible shots, his sweaty t-shirt collected a new layer of dirt. So much so that it made you wonder if he wasn’t making things more difficult by carrying half the court on his back.  

Image : TennisTV 

What’s more, Davidovich Fokina succeeded in breaking Djokovic nine times—something no other player has ever managed to do in a best-of-three.  

And he didn’t stop there. He powered through the draw with wins over David Goffin (No.47), Taylor Fritz (No.13) and Grigor Dimitrov (No.29) to make it to his first Masters 1000 final.  

Photo : 

His dream week in Monaco sent him soaring 19 spots, from No.46 to No.27.  

It’s a performance that’s out of this world! 

Clay court season is just getting started, so expect to see a lot more red on his tennis whites. 

There’s even an entire Twitter account devoted to Foki’s falls, plunges and lunges: @DidFokiFall.  

The diving isn’t new. Here’s a fan tribute video to his spills and thrills that seems to hint at a trend in his game.  

Separated at birth (3)

For the past few weeks, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has been sporting a hairstyle reminiscent of a Viking warrior’s.  

He reminds me of Toronto Blue Jays’ star Josh Donaldson, who made an appearance on the Canadian-Irish drama Vikings in 2017.  


Twitter: @paul6rivard 

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