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Montreal: August 3, 2024 - August 12, 2024
Toronto: August 4, 2024 - August 12, 2024
Montreal : August 3 - 12, 2024
Toronto : August 4 - 12, 2024

Larger than life!

He may only be 23 years old, but he’s just been immortalized on a wall at IGA Stadium, site of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers (NBO).

Like Leylah Annie Fernandez in the WTA, Félix Auger-Aliassime is the highest-ranking Canadian singles player in the ATP, and he’s been honoured as such with a larger-than-life mural on one of the two outside walls of the National Tennis Centre.

This very simple and very ingenious idea was dreamed up by Hugues Léger, general manager of Tennis Montréal.

Photo : Robert Sanfaçon/La Presse

When he took over the reins from Nicole Nobert, Léger was inspired by an idea she’d had and ran with it. He approached Tennis Canada, which graciously offered the wall space, and then brought the first two murals to life by personally funding them.

The aim is twofold: pay tribute to the local players who’ve reached the greatest heights in tennis and are role models for future generations and provide young players across the city with training walls.

Read also: Auger-Aliassime Can't Close Out Rublev in Madrid Final

“We know that practicing against a wall is the simplest, most accessible and least expensive way to get started,” Léger explained. “That’s how I got my start, on a wall on the corner of the street I grew up on. And that’s how a lot of great players, including Roger Federer and, closer to home, former NBO tournament director Richard Legendre, got started, too.”

Hughes Léger is quick to point out that one of Tennis Montréal’s primary missions is to make tennis accessible to as many young Montrealers as possible, and the city has come on board to broaden the scope of this fantastic initiative. “The city granted us funding for nine more murals in different neighborhoods to roll out the project in 2024 and 2026.”

Photo : Paul Rivard

Who’ll be featured on the tennis walls? Since the purpose is to honour Québec’s most illustrious players, past and present, names like Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau, Eugenie Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak, Marie-Ève Pelletier, Valérie Tétreault, Andrée Martin, Sébastien Lareau, Richard Legendre and Réjean Genois all come to mind. When asked, Léger acknowledged that the proposals were interesting but didn’t want to reveal Tennis Montréal’s final choices.

Read also: Dual challenge for the 2024 NBO

As you can see from the photo above, the mural dedicated to Leylah Fernandez depicts her in the triumphant pose we’ve come to recognize. Both works were created by Montreal muralist Jenna Schwartz.

I happened to pass by one of the impressive portrayals a week before the unveiling. Even though it was still in the making, it was easy to imagine and appreciate the artist’s talent and the magnitude of the challenge.

Photo : Paul Rivard

Jenna Schwartz posted a short video of two young players training with Félix.

Photo : Paul Rivard

To drive home the point, allow me to quote a few lines from this very blog from March 2021, when the pandemic helped me reconnect with one of my first training partners:

You see, the wall never falters. It returns what you serve it. If you fire off a mishit, you’ll get one right back.

Read also: Erin Routliffe Rising to the Top

To sharpen your reflexes, step up your footwork or find a compact swing to briskly respond to opponents who may be going a little too hard on the offense, the wall is the way to go.

No need for a partner or even a court. And good luck finding a more affordable alternative!

Don’t believe me? Just ask Nick Bollettieri, legendary coach of the likes of Agassi, Courier, Seles and Sharapova. A few years back, he had only good things to say about being up against a wall.

Photo : Paul Rivard

The ATP's best return to Montreal this summer for the National Bank Open August 3 to 12, 2024 at IGA Stadium. 2024 Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!

Feature photo : Tennis Montréal