Photo: Tennis Canada

It’s been said time and time again: we’re in a golden age of Canadian tennis. Barring any unforeseen or unfortunate events, 2023 should demonstrate that a brilliant era is indeed upon us. 

In 2022, no less than seven Canadians settled in the top 100s: No.7 Gabriela Dabrowski (doubles), No.40 Leylah Fernandez, No.45 Bianca Andreescu, No.65 Rebecca Marino, No.6 Félix Auger-Aliassime, No.18 Denis Shapovalov and No.100 Vasek Pospisil.  

My colleague Tom Tebbutt recapped their seasons here:

Tebbutt: The women 2022 – strength in numbers

Tebbutt: The men 2022 – Félix shows the way

Their successes are the culmination of a decade of hard work by Tennis Canada to pave the road opened by Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic—one built on hope and motivation. 

Looking ahead to 2023, I called upon Sylvain Bruneau and Guillaume Marx, who lead Tennis Canada’s elite programs, for some insight. 

Photos : La Presse et Paul Rivard 

When I spoke to them, they were in Florida with our young talents to oversee their training and competitive efforts (more on that in the next instalment in this series). On December 13, they met with the media to discuss Tennis Canada’s year in review. 

In addition to all the good things they had to say about the seven wonders of Canadian tennis, they briefly discussed their own expectations for the upcoming season. 

Eyes on the Top 20 for Leylah and Bianca 

Sylvain Bruneau is certain that Leylah Fernandez and Bianca Andreescu will move up in the rankings—probably into the Top 20, if not better. And no, there aren’t any rose-coloured glasses involved.  

“It’s not only optimistic but very realistic to think that they’ll have made significant progress in the rankings by the end of 2023,” he said. 

Photo : Martin Sidorjak / Tennis Canada 

“Injuries caused them to miss long periods this year. Bianca only played her first match in mid-April, in Stuttgart. So, she should definitely move up and make a solid push, since she hasn’t got any points to defend in the first four months of the year. For Leylah, it’s the opposite. She got the year off to a great start until Roland-Garros, but her foot injury complicated things. Still, she was No.13 going into the National Bank Open. When I coached them at the recent BJK Cup Finals, Leylah impressed me once again with her attitude and determination. That’s very encouraging.” 

As for Rebecca Marino, who won a title in 2022 and moved up 80 spots in 11 months (and nearly 200 spots over the past two years), every bit of headway is a victory. We all know how far she’s come. 

Photo : Instagram / @beccamarino90 

But as she circles the Top 50, things will get dicier. Be that as it may, nothing about the resilient British Columbian surprises Sylvain Bruneau.  

“Rebecca will start 2023 in a better position,” he said. “She won’t have to go through the qualifying rounds of every tournament and will enter the main draw of the Slams. Her schedule will be less hectic. I really believe she can continue to progress.” 

In December, Marino spent a few weeks in Mexico preparing with her new coach Bruno Echegaray, who’s worked with other Canadians including Stéphanie Dubois, Marie-Ève Pelletier and Françoise Abanda. 

Bianca Andreescu also has a new coach. In late November, she announced she’d teamed up with fellow Canadian Christophe Lambert, who until recently was the director of high performance at Tennis New Zealand. 

Photo : Agigail Dougherty / Stuff 

It’s a reunion of sorts, since the two collaborated when Bianca was a teenager. “Christophe has held several positions at Tennis Canada, in the Maritimes and in Toronto. Bianca knows him very well and believes going back to her roots will do her good as she reconnects with a coach who helped her when she was 12 and 13 years old,” commented Bruneau. “Remember 2019? Bianca’s huge push started in New Zealand. I wasn’t there, but Christophe was there for every match. I talked to Bianca a few days ago, and she said things were already going great.” 

And let’s not forget Eugenie Bouchard, with whom Sylvain stays in touch: “She’s in Florida. She’s training and playing a lot with the group of youngsters out there. She’s very motivated and will be in Australia in January. She wants to progress in 2023.”  

Onwards and upwards for Félix and Denis 

As far as Canadian men’s tennis, Guillaume Marx expressed a lot of admiration for Félix Auger-Aliassime, who has a strong foothold in the Top 10. But that doesn’t mean he can rest on his laurels.  

“For Félix, just defending all the points he earned in 2022, and especially during his amazing fall run, will be a huge challenge. But he’s gained so much confidence, and I predict the Top 5 and maybe even a Slam final. As far as Denis, I like what I saw after his surreal exit from the NBO. His 16–7 record is encouraging, and he knows how to combine his offensive tennis with a little more patience on his returns. I think he’ll get back into the Top 10.” 

Photo : Facebook / Équipe Canada 

When talking about Vasek Pospisil, Marx praised the determination of the veteran, who rose from No.149 to No.100 in the last two months of the year. “I can see him getting back into the Top 70. And why not even higher?” said the coach. 

And Marx didn’t forget Milos Raonic in his 2023 predictions. “I spoke to him on the phone a few days ago. He assured me he still plans on coming back but won’t talk about it officially until he’s got a set timeline and can make an announcement. So, we can infer it won’t be in the short term. But we hope to see him back this spring.”