Photo : Jordan Leigh
by Kylie Walker
Canada’s top women in tennis joined aspiring girl athletes for a meet and greet on Tuesday ahead of the highly-anticipated Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers.
Sporting red and white Team Canada jackets, Gabriela Dabrowski, Rebecca Marino, Katherine Sebov, and team captain Heidi El Tabakh gave young players invaluable advice on handling pressure in high-stake matches, keeping focus, and having fun.
“It was so inspirational, and it reminded me to enjoy every moment of every match I play,” said thirteen-year-old Jacqueline Cuthill.
Tennis Canada’s new Game. Set. Equity. program made Tuesday’s event possible.
In partnership with National Bank, Tennis Canada has created an ambitious 10-year strategic plan committed to amplifying the voices of and providing meaningful opportunities to women and girls who love the sport.
“These events promote the inclusion of women and girls and bring a realness to the sport. People share vulnerabilities, learn from others’ previous challenges, and relate,” said Jessica Reznk, Community Coordinator at Tennis Canada. “When younger girls are in those tough moments, this helps them know they’re not alone. Pro players have felt the same way.”
To Reznek, it was clear. The seasoned athletes and the next generation of women in tennis understood each other. Each woman and girl in the room shared a love for the sport, had like experiences, and faced similar pressures.
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Sebov and Dabrowski shared how they push past the pressure that comes with stepping out onto the court.
“I focus on one point at a time. Pretend it’s zero-zero. I stop thinking about the future score and think about what I’m going to do to win this point,” said Sebov, who reached a career-high WTA singles ranking of No. 136 this month. “That’s kind of how you center yourself. At least, that’s what works for me. One shot at a time.”
“I heard an expression similar to that. Play a match like you’re painting a mountain,” added Dabrowski. “Instead of thinking about climbing to the top of the mountain, focus on painting it layer by layer. Focus on it point by point, step by step.
Marino also captivated the young crowd when asked how she handles and learns from losses.
“It pushes me to pick up and do better,” said the Vancouver native. “Rather than dwell on it, use it as motivation and fuel to grow. Channel it.”
Along with this guidance and encouragement, the young attendees were gifted signed tennis balls and an invitation to watch Team Canada play in the Billie Jean King Cup at the Pacific Coliseum on April 14-15. Dabrowski, Marino, and Sebov look to defeat Belgium this weekend and duplicate their success from last year’s event.