Photo: Pascale Ratthe / Tennis Canada
The 2021 tennis season was a rollercoaster ride. So many twists and turns, uncertainties due to COVID-19, and thrilling matches on show. It was a joy to see fans back in the stands at events across the world and such incredible adverts for the sport.
For Canadian tennis in particular, 2021 was about (Re)building a #TennisNation after the losses incurred during the pandemic. For our elite players on tour, it was about getting back on the court, winning titles and making progress. It’s fair to say they exceeded those expectations as their performances once again forced people to ask the question “what’s in the water up there?”.
Here, we look back at the Top 10 Canadian tennis moments of the year, starting with numbers 10 to 6.
10. National Bank becomes the title partner of the world’s third oldest tennis tournament
In February, Tennis Canada announced that the presenting sponsor since 2005 in Montreal and since 2010 in Toronto, National Bank, would become the title sponsor of the two most important tennis tournaments in Canada. Starting in 2021, the third oldest tennis tournament after Wimbledon and the US Open would be called National Bank Open presented by Rogers. Rogers’ instrumental support in growing and developing tennis across Canada over the last 20 years would continue as the tournament’s presenting sponsor and as the new presenting sponsor of the National Tennis Centre and Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program.
9. Five Canadians represent Team Canada in tennis at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Having been delayed due to the pandemic, sports fans across the world were excited by the prospect of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games going ahead in 2021. For Canadian tennis, it meant that a number of our top players would make the trip to Asia to represent the Maple Leaf and compete for a medal. In total, Canada boasted five players in the competition: Félix Auger-Aliassime, Leylah Annie Fernandez, Gabriela Dabrowski, Sharon Fichman and Rob Shaw. Despite the fact there were no deep runs from Canadian players, there was an overwhelming sense of pride to see them representing the country at the pinnacle of the sport on the Olympic courts.
8. Rebecca Marino qualifies for two Grand Slam main draws at the US Open and Australian Open
2021 is a year Rebecca Marino won’t forget in a hurry. The 30-year-old’s season was accented with many highs, including crucial singles and doubles win in Team Canada presented by Sobeys’ 4-0 victory over Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs in April and then an appearance at the Finals in Prague. Her unlikely run to the Round of 16 at the National Bank Open was also a sight to behold. What we’d like to highlight, though, is her incredible achievements at the Grand Slams, where – at the Australian and US Opens – she qualified for the main draw for the first time in eight years. At the Aussie Open in particular, she won her first Grand Slam main draw match in a decade. Go ‘Becca!
7. Tennis Canada and National Bank launch long-term equality strategy and “Girls. Set. Match.” campaign
In May, Tennis Canada and National Bank announced that they will partner on a long-term equality strategy for the next ten years, which will create meaningful actions and change for gender equality in tennis. As part of the initiative, Tennis Canada and National Bank will create new opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet, become life-long participants, coaches and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle and personal growth through sport. To mark the start of the program, Tennis Canada also launched the campaign “Girls. Set. Match.”, created by global creative agency Sid Lee, with a primary focus on the retention of young women and girls in the sport through adolescence.
6. Sharon Fichman reigns in Rome, winning Italian Open doubles title
It was a feel-good story for any Canadian tennis fan to follow – Sharon Fichman and partner Giuliana Olmos’ run to the championship at the WTA 1000 Italian Open in May. Fichman, who was part of the Billie Jean King Cup squad for the Serbia tie, teamed up with the Mexican and defeated Jessica Pegula and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Hsieh Su-wei and Elise Mertens, Coco Gauff and Veronika Kudermetova, and Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama to reach the final. There, they played Kristina Mladenovic and Marketa Vondrousova and produced a comeback win – 4-6, 7-5, 10-5 – to ensure Fichman would lift the first WTA 1000 title of her career. Later, the Canadian and Olmos would qualify for the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico. Fichman concluded the year at a career-high No. 22 in doubles.