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WTA

RIVARD: AN OLYMPIC MEDAL? WHY NOT!

by Paul Rivard

April 4, 2023

I sometimes catch myself dreaming about the 2024 Summer Games in Paris: the Canadian flag floating above the iconic Olympic podium with one of our own on the steps. Maybe Leylah, Bianca, Gabriela, Denis, Félix or Vasek. Maybe even two of them as a team. Can you see it? Leylah’s recent success in doubles (Auckland, Miami) is the reason for my recurring dream. Let’s recap. On the morning of April 1, I went online and saw this headline in Tennis Canada’s newsfeed.

It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

It’s actually further proof of Leylah’s progress, as she evolves into a more complete player who can compete in singles and doubles.

Twenty months ago, she barged into a Grand Slam final. Just recently, she fought her way into another final—this time at the WTA 1000 event in the city she moved to as a kid to grow her game.

Read and Watch: Canada’s road to the 2022 Davis Cup title

Think about it. In a year and a half, all the possible Canadian combinations will be the stuff of dreams. The six Canadians mentioned above will provide our country with plenty of options when it comes to selecting Olympic competitors.

But more on that later.

With Taylor Townsend of the US, currently World No.19 in doubles, Leylah flew through the five matches in the Floridian draw, toppling some big names along the way.

Photo: Jimmie48/WTA

If you follow women’s doubles, you’re familiar with how good Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, Beatriz Haddad Maia and Giuliana Olmos, and Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko are.

Fernandez and Townsend overpowered them all.

In the final showdown, Leylah and Taylor were up against formidable opponents: the World No.3 and World No.5. Americans Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula were the favourites as far as the numbers game and in the hearts of the fans in the stands. After a tough opening set, Leylah and Taylor lost 7-6(6), 6-2.

Here’s a recap.

It was the Canadian’s second doubles final this season after the WTA 250 in Auckland earlier this year. She went far in New Zealand with another American, veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, with whom she also battled in the quarters of the WTA 1000 in Dubai last February.

The good news is that Taylor and Leylah told Open Court that they plan on teaming up at the next few tournaments.



It isn’t easy for players destined for a career in singles to find time for doubles. That’s especially obvious in the men’s game, whose competitors are much less successful in doubles than their counterparts in the WTA.

A lot of women excel in doubles. Just take a look at the Top 9: three doubles specialists and six very strong singles players.

WTA rankings on April 3, 2023

DoublesSingles
Katerina Siniakova148
Barbora Krejcikova212
Coco Gauff36
Jessica Pegula43
Veronika Kudermetova513
Gabriela Dabrowski6
Lyudmyla Kichenok71,014
Giuliana Olmos8
Jelena Ostapenko921

Scroll to World No.6.

When it comes to securing Olympic hardware, she’s an ace Canada could on. Gabriela Dabrowski is the best Canadian women’s doubles player of all-time.

Photo: Kin Cheung/AP

She’s earned 13 WTA titles and rose as high as World No.4 on July 11, 2022. She’s competed in one major final in women’s doubles (2019 Wimbledon) and holds two Slam crowns in mixed doubles (2017 Roland-Garros and 2018 AO).

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov are singles players who demonstrated how well they can do in doubles when they helped Canada lift the ATP Cup and Davis Cup last season.

Read also: Canada learns opponents for Group Stage of 2023 Davis Cup Finals

And there’s Vasek Pospisil and his solid record.

On the women’s side, why couldn’t Bianca Andreescu recover from her injury and spend the rest of the season getting back to the level that made her a Grand Slam champion?

Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters

When I see those six names, I see every reason to believe a Canadian could bring home a medal from the Paris Games, which will be decided on the clay courts at Roland-Garros from July 27 to August 4, 2024.

Read and watch: The 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Glasgow

Six names. Five competitions.

I like those odds.

Let’s dare to dream!

Image: WTATV

PAULA’S NEW HITTING PARTNER

A lot of the ballpersons at tournaments around the world are tennis fans and players themselves.

So imagine how this particular ballperson felt when the chair umpire gave him the chance to hit with the former World No. 2 Paula Badosa.

Image: WTATV

Here’s how it all went down.

In round 2 in Miami, Laura Siegemund of Germany took an unusually long timeout in an obvious attempt to get herself together and regain control of a match that was slipping away from her.

Read also: Petra Kvitova reminds fans of her greatness

But Paula wasn’t about to have a seat and wait it out. Instead, she drafted a ballperson to hit with her, who promptly jogged off to the other end of the court and did a really great job.

The crowd loved it and gave Paula a warm round of applause.

Image: WTATV


Galvanized by the moment, she was able to close things out 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-2.

NBO SOUVENIR PHOTO

Photo: Paul Rivard


Long days and nights on the courts and the stress of having only a very small margin for error.

These ballgirls and ballboys wouldn’t have it any other way.

Food is fuel, as they say, and there’s no better time than a lunch break to chill and recharge before heading back out there.