Looking back on her time as a player, Valérie Tétreault says she’s always had a soft spot for the Saguenay National Bank Challenger.
“I’d circle the dates on my calendar,” recalls the unexpected and popular finalist of the very first edition of the tournament in 2006.
In the years since that final match, Valérie’s high regard for her opponent Angelique Kerber, who would go on to win three Grand Slam titles, has never wavered. Quite the opposite, actually.
Despite all the time and effort she’s currently dedicating to her new role, the tournament director of the National Bank Open spent last weekend in Saguenay to celebrate the event’s 15th anniversary.
“My affection for the Saguenay tournament stems from the ties I had the opportunity to create with the organization, which is still overseen by Jean Delisle, and the local fans,” she said.
She’s the first to admit that the crowd had a huge part in her success.
“It was one of my first professional tournaments, and no one thought I’d reach the final. The fans were really behind me.”
The match against Kerber really could have gone the other way: Valérie pushed the future World No.1 to the limit before falling 7-5, 5-7, 7-6.
“I remember leading 4-1 in the third set before losing the tiebreak in a solid match. But it was a heartbreaking outcome, especially since it would have been my first title,” she recalled.
“After the match, Caroline [Delisle, who oversaw player services] told me they had taken my name off the cheque for the runner-up because they thought I was going to win.”
Valérie rebounded and won three Challengers and competed in five finals. She circled the Top 100 at No.112 before her early retirement at the age of 22.
Making the Saguenay tournament even more special was the fact that it was a family affair.
“I went there with my mom. We rarely had mother-daughter time because she didn’t have the chance to travel to tournaments with me. That made the time even more special,” she said.
Fast-forward and Valérie is now a mom herself.
“It’s a long drive to Saguenay. My daughter’s barely two, so she’s too young to watch tennis,” she explained.
Maybe in a few years?
WILL FÉLIX FIND HIS WAY TO TURIN?
According to ATP accountants, that expression about the ball being in your court is truer than ever when it comes to Félix Auger-Aliassime and the ATP Finals.
A winner in Florence and Antwerp these past two Sundays, he’s currently seventh in the race to Turin with a 340-point lead over Taylor Fritz. A hat trick at the indoor event will put him only 215 and 330 points behind Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev.
But trouble in Basel could knock him out of the running.
We’ll have to wait until the Paris Masters.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, SAGUENAY!
The Saguenay Challenger was a huge success for Jean Delisle and his entire organization, even despite the difficulties they encountered coming back after a nearly three-year absence due to the pandemic.
“We picked up where we left off in 2019. It’s as if there hadn’t been a pause,” said tournament director Francis Milloy in Le Quotidien newspaper.
SEE YOU IN ST. AUGUSTIN AND LAS VEGAS
Tennis Canada’s tournament machine is going full steam ahead as it makes its way to the Complexe tennis Saint-Augustin in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, more or less a stone’s throw from Québec, with a $25,000 men’s ITF tournament.
Pierre-Luc Tessier, who coached Stéphanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak, is running the show.
Also this week, keep an eye on the Challenger in Las Vegas. With Vasek Pospisil seeded third and Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo in the mix, the event is shaping to be a training camp for Canada’s Davis Cup squad.