To win without risk is to triumph without glory, they say. If that’s the case, then Tennis Canada is pretty glorious.
Despite all its complexity, 2021 was a great year, especially thanks to Leylah Fernandez, who fought her way to the US Open final and totally won over the Big Apple in the process.
Among the additional highlights are two Slam semis—Félix Auger-Aliassime in New York and Denis Shapovalov at Wimbledon—as well as 11 pro titles for Canadian tennis, including the first of the season secured by Fernandez in Monterrey, and six of our own finishing in the Top 50.
There was also a ton of success off the courts by virtue of all the efforts invested by everyone in the offices. We’ve come a long way. A long, long way.
Let’s go back in time to 2020, when Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada, confirmed that the cancellation of the tournaments in Montréal and Toronto led to a direct loss of $60M in revenues for the organization.
Some accounting adjustments were made, and the necessary sacrifices and dramatic cuts reduced the staff by 40% and programs by 70%. Tennis Canada closed out the year with an $8M deficit.
In 2021, things started looking up.
The return of the National Bank Open in both cities helped generate a slight profit, even despite the limit of 50,000 ticketholders per tournament.
The challenge is still looming but there’s hope. According to Michael Downey, it will take three to five years for tennis to truly recover financially, but the good news is that money will be put back into Tennis Canada’s programs.
FÉLIX: CONSISTENCY AT THE SLAMS
Now, back to the courts.
Canadian no.1s Félix Auger-Aliassime and Leylah Fernandez ended 2021 at career highs: No.11 for him (up 10) and No.24 for her (up 64), notwithstanding all the bubbles, repeated testing, cancellations and site and date changes.
“Being a professional tennis player isn’t as easy as it was two or three years ago,” affirmed Guillaume Marx, who leads Tennis Canada’s men’s tennis program.
Note: Following Louis Borfiga’s retirement, Marx became head of the men’s program and Sylvain Bruneau of the women’s.
In addition to the final four in New York, Auger-Aliassime made it to the quarters in London and the fourth round in Melbourne.
“He still needs to improve at the Masters 1000 and ATP 500 and 250 events but the situation is very encouraging considering the consistency he’s shown at the Slams,” said Marx.
SAME SPORT, DIFFERENT REALITIES
The season’s most outstanding player is certainly Leylah Fernandez.
“Exceptional!” confirmed Sylvain Bruneau.
“We watched Leylah achieve great things on her way up, but she took us all by surprise,” he said. “And that includes titleholder Naomi Osaka, former titleholder Angelique Kerber and World No.5 Elina Svitolina: the players she eliminated on her dream run in New York.”
What should we expect in Australia this coming January? Leylah told us she’s been working hard with her dad.
Things are perhaps less rosy for Bianca Andreescu, who fell to No.64 after rising as high as No.4 after her US Open triumph in 2019.
After a string a withdrawals, she announced she would not be travelling to Australia in early 2022. She’s working on finding some physical and emotional stability after a challenging season.
* Also in our elite Top 25 group are No.7 Gabriela Dabrowski and No.22 Sharon Fichman.
* In doubles, Dabrowski won the National Bank Open at IGA Stadium. Fichman raised the winners’ trophy at the WTA 1000 Italian Open.
* Auger-Aliassime outmaneuvered four members of the Top 10, including Roger Federer.
* Next year, the men will be in town at the National Bank Open at IGA Stadium from August 5 to 14. We’re already looking forward to it!