At this summer’s National Bank Open in Montréal (WTA) and Toronto (ATP), there’ll be two Canadians to keep an eye on.
They’re Leylah Fernandez and Félix Auger-Aliassime, of course, who also happened to be among the headliners at the Eisenhower Cup—the one-night Tie Break Tens mixed doubles tournament to benefit charitable organizations in the Coachella Valley held on the enchanting site of BNP Paribas Open, just outside Palm Springs.
The evening at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was just one of the many joint media appearances the Quebecers have made.
Read also: Auger-Aliassime wears down Cerundolo, Fernandez outlasted by Garcia
Their brilliant performances at the 2021 US Open (where Félix got as far as the semis in his longest Grand Slam run and Leylah fought in the ultimate battle for the women’s crown) secured their invitations to the Met Gala, held the day after the tournament, and helped them earn a double endorsement deal with Flair Airlines they announced at a press conference in Montréal soon after.
The two top talents have been lauded by the entire tennis universe. Even the legendary Chris Evert tweeted praise.
But back to the third annual Eisenhower Cup and mixed doubles. Whenever compatriots are ranked high enough to enter IW’s main draw, their pairing is virtually a given and always fun to watch.
In addition to Leylah and Félix, there were Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece), Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz (Poland), Jessica Pegula and Tommy Paul (US) and Belinda Bencic and Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland).
Paula Badosa (Spain) and Cameron Norrie (Great Britain), Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) and Casper Ruud (Norway), and Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) and Taylor Fritz (US) made up the multinational duos.
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In front of 6,000 fans in the stadium, Sabalenka and Fritz asserted their dominance with an ultimate 10–8 win over the Polish team.
The resurgence of mixed doubles is an interesting phenomenon. In the past, outside the Slams and Olympics, only the now defunct Hopman Cup featured the event.
This season marked the very first edition of the new United Cup, an international tournament featuring mixed-gender teams, and most of the big names wanted in.
Because besides the ranking points and bags of money they pick up all season long, players like to compete in mixed doubles for the fun of it.
If you have any doubts, take a look at the Swiatek/Hurkacz vs. Fernandez/Auger-Aliassime match on March 8.
Smiles all around.
WANT TO PLAY TENNISSNOW?
Giles Hussey of Great Britain is currently sitting around No.515 in the ATP singles rankings and No.250 in doubles.
He’s been out of the game since mid-January and focusing on his recovery at home in the UK, where a rare snowfall made for a fun training session.
What I’ve dubbed tennissnow just for fun definitely isn’t for everyone and definitely isn’t the best option for a player who’s coming back from an injury.
Fortunately, Hussey stuck to serves, which were all returned provided he aimed them right at his wooden opponent.
Read more from Paul Rivard.
When I saw Hussey’s tennis court winter wonderland, a highly unusual mid-winter match on Centre Court at IGA Stadium immediately came to mind.
And there was some major snow cover.
One of the two players brave enough to take on the winter tennis challenge was none other than NBO tournament director Valérie Tétreault. Back in 2018, she and her communications team came up with the one-of-a-kind idea while brainstorming ways Tennis Canada could drive ticket sales on social media.
“It was an idea I pitched to Alexandre Barrette, who’s a popular Québec TV host and stand-up and an excellent tennis player to boot. He’d agreed to be our spokesperson that year, so we used the stunt to announce it,” Valérie recalled with a smile.
“Alex had a lot of fun—and so did I—playing this somewhat extreme sport. I can tell you it was very slippery! In the video, you see Alexandre shovelling the snow by himself, but we actually cheated out of necessity. Clearing it all with a shovel would have been a colossal task!”
See it here:
Valérie was pretty proud of her team’s initiative, which reached way beyond Québec. “The US Open shared it!” she remembered.
So how about a winter tournament with players who are used to the snow, like the Canadians, Americans from the northern states and Scandinavians?
Valérie smiled and said she had some serious doubts, just as I suspected she would. It’s safe to assume players’ agents and their sponsors would very strongly advise against it.
And with good reason.