2014/09/18

Tennis Canada honors Rene Simpson Collins during Fed Cup tie

(L-R, Valerie Tetreault, Stephanie Dubois, Rene Simpson Collins, Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak)

(L-R, Valerie Tetreault, Stephanie Dubois, Rene Simpson Collins, Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak)

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin | @earthstroke

(February 8, 2014) MONTREAL – As part of the World Group II Fed Cup tie between Canada and Serbia held in Montreal this weekend, Tennis Canada paid a touching tribute to Rene Simpson Collins, former Fed Cup player and captain, who passed away last October after a relentless one-year fight with cancer.

The Canadian tennis world was deeply saddened in the fall of 2012 when her illness was announced. Multiple words of hope and support were shared by players, journalists and fans, notably through the Inspired By Rene website (http://www.inspiredbyrene.com), where Rene and her husband Jason shared thoughts and news on her on-going battle.

Wozniack patch

Players, as well as staff from both Tennis Canada and the ITF, also found their own way of honoring Simpson Collins on Saturday by wearing patches with the name Rene. It was also announced that a Rene Simpson Collins award will be created and given yearly by Tennis Canada to a player that showed promise, determination, courage, and pride.

Known for her determination, gritty attitude and incomparable fighting spirit, Rene went as high as No. 70 in the world in singles, while her biggest success came in doubles where she won three WTA events and reached a career high ranking of 32. She also took great pride in representing Canada by playing in 24 Fed Cup ties over 11 years and participating in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics both in singles and doubles.

As a Fed Cup captain between 2001 and 2009, Simpson Collins became an inspiration to an entire generation of Canadian tennis players. Stephanie Dubois, who has played numerous Fed Cup events since 2004, had great words for her former captain: ‘Rene was a great leader and a source of inspiration to all of us. We have lost a great part of Canadian tennis, and it was an honor to represent Canada with her as a captain’.

The greatest tribute would certainly come on the court from the Canadian Fed Cup team, who is aiming at reaching the World Group for the first time in twenty years.

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Home Advantage: Top 10 Best Canadian Crowd-Pleasers in Montreal

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By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(August 7, 2013) Montreal – In the wake of possibly the best day, week and year in Canadian tennis history, we look back at the top 10 wildest, craziest and loudest performances of local players at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The victories that led to standing ovations, chants and waves, Montreal-style. The ones no one expected. The ones we all remember.

10. Frédéric Niemeyer, 2009

A seasoned veteran, Frédéric Niemeyer had announced in 2009 that he would retire at the end of the year. When the Rogers Cup draw came out, everyone hoped for him to face Roger Federer, his long-time friend, in the second round as his farewell match in Montréal. After beating Kunitsyn in the first round, Fred played a tight two set match against a classy Federer, who let him enjoy the spotlight. One of those well-deserved feel-good moments we all enjoy.

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

9. Eugenie Bouchard, 2012

While Eugenie ‘Genie’ Bouchard is now on the brink of becoming one of WTA’s biggest stars, she still was fairly unknown to the casual Canadian fans in early 2012. After winning Junior Wimbledon and the Granby Challenger, she came to the Rogers Cup full of confidence and with all eyes on her. Her first round match on a packed Center Court against Shahar Peer seemed like a tough task, but the Montreal-born blonde kept her composure to win 7-5 in the third, to the delight of the adoring crowd. After a tight two-set loss to Li Na in the second round, everybody knew it was the start of a long love affair between Genie and Montreal.

8. Sébastien Leblanc, 1997

Sébastien Leblanc was best known for his doubles skills: paired with fellow Canadians Sebastien Lareau and Greg Rusedski, he won three consecutive Junior Doubles Grand Slams in 1990 and got up to number 127 in the senior doubles rankings. So when he came out at the 1997 Rogers Cup to face Tim Henman, then ranked 18th in the world, the expectations were low for the 885th ranked Canadian, playing his first ATP match of the year. The first set was decided in a tiebreak, where Leblanc had the lead early and never looked back after a string of unforced errors from Henman. The second set stayed tight until the end, and while the ecstatic applause seemed to get in Tim’s head, he managed to level the match by breaking late in the set. In the third, playing aggressive tennis and rushing to the net, Leblanc broke for a 5-3 lead, and finished the match on a spectacular plunging dropshot volley winner. Leblanc would end up losing easily in the next round and retiring a few months after, but this remains a fuzzy-yellow-ball Cinderella story to be told.

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7. Milos Raonic, 2009

When Milos first stepped on the Montreal courts for the 2009 qualifying draw, he was a tall, lanky, a-bit-awkward giant with a big serve. He surprised everyone by beating Gabashvili and Llodra to qualify, and set up a night match against feisty world No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez in the first round. Only experience separated the two, and “Gonzo” ended up winning after saving a match point in the second set tiebreak, but the rowdy National Bank crowd which got the first taste of Milos-mania. It was the first sign of brilliance from Milos, who actually is now a tall, lanky, a-bit-less-awkward giant with a big serve.

6. Aleksandra Wozniak, 2012

Aleksandra Wozniak is the most successful Quebec player ever to step on a tennis court (being ranked as high as 21), but the Blainville native had never really shone at the Rogers Cup, coming in the 2012 main draw with a 3-9 record. After serious injuries, she was on the way back up in 2012, but a tough draw was ahead of her. After scraping through Daniela Hantuchova in the first round, she upset Jelena Jankovic easily in the second round and beat Christina McHale in the third round before losing to her nemesis Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. It was a great moment for Aleks who got over her mental block in Montreal, and a great moment for the crowd enjoying their protégé’s long-awaited local success.

5. Simon Larose, 2003

Simon Larose was known on the ATP circuit as a talented but party-oriented fellow. Living up to his reputation, rocking a mohawk tucked under a bandana, he came to the Montreal 2003 Rogers Cup ranked at number 315. While everyone was looking forward to his blockbuster first round against Gustavo Kuerten, nobody expected more than a decent-but-outrageous showing from Larose. Outrageous it was, but decent it wasn’t: playing superb tennis, Larose upset the former number 1 and Grand Slam champion in a tight two-setter, falling on his knees in disbelief after match point. Riding the wave in the next round, he beat Jose Acasuso in a thriller, coming back from 1-3 in the third set, setting up a meeting with legend Andre Agassi in the third round. Despite losing 6-4 6-2 after having a 4-1 lead in the first, Larose had the best tennis week of his life and became a household name in Montreal. The after-tourney party was probably epic.

4. Stephanie Dubois, 2008

Stephanie Dubois is a feisty competitor that fuels on the crowd’s energy. She therefore has created over the years a mutual agreement with Montrealers: the more they cheer, the more she fights, the more they chant, the more she wins. After reaching the third round in 2006 due to a Kim Clijsters retirement, Steph brought the crowd to its feet by repeating the feat two years later. While the match wasn’t memorable, her first round against Govortsova was played in a bizarre environment: after waiting for hours to start the match due to a rain delay, the players came out of the locker room well over 10pm, acclaimed by a very small but raucous crowd, excited to finally see some action. At one point, the stadium fire alarm started ringing for a what seems like forever: while the players were seated waiting for it to stop, a smart supporter yelled ‘Steph is on fireeeeeeeee!’, leading to an overall laughter. Dubois kept the fire going in her second round against Maria Kirilenko, arguably her best win ever, a match which had superb shot making, long rallies and will stay in the books as one of the most inspired Canadian performances in Montreal.

Pospisil

3. The 2013 Crew

Mark the dates: August 5th-6th, 2013. In previous years, the Montreal crowd would get excited when one or two Canadians would sneak into round 2. So when five local players won their first match (and the other lost a close three-setter against a top 15 player), there was an overall sense of excitement on the Stade Uniprix grounds. It all started on Monday night, when newly- minted Canadian Jesse Levine upset Xavier Malisse, while Peter Polansky played an inspired match despite losing to Kei Nishikori in front of a chanting and waving Center Court. It was a sign of things to come, as the long, tedious, overdramatic wins kept on rolling the next day: Filip Peliwo, Frank Dancevic,  Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic all moved through despite being a few points away from defeat. So who will go the furthest down the draw and make this same list in 2033?

2. Sébastien Lareau, 1999

Sébastien Lareau was the proud flag-bearer through a few dry years for Canadian tennis in the late nineties and early noughties, notably in doubles. The Montreal tournament, which he called ‘My Wimbledon’, saw him get the best single wins of his career. In 1999, he came in the tournament ranked at 116. After winning his first round in two sets against Justin Gimelstob, he had a tough task ahead of him in Richard Krajicek, 5th seed and 7th in the world. When the Dutchman won the first set 6-4, everyone thought logic was followed. But the crowd got into the match, probably as intensely as ever, and when Krajicek doublefaulted at 4-6 in the tiebreak, the entire stadium exploded in strong applause and a standing ovation. The magic atmosphere helped Lareau stay on top of the wave, and after missing three match points while serving for the match in the third, a final service winner handed him the biggest match of his career. He lost in three tough sets to eventual winner Thomas Johansson in the next round in another dramatic thriller, but he rekindled the Montreal love for Canadian tennis, which in itself is the best feat of all.

Dancevic

1. Frank Dancevic, 2007

Everyone agrees that Frank Dancevic is more talented than what his résumé suggests: often injured, the Canadian never really had the chance to blossom into the player he could have been. The best example of this is the 2007 Rogers Cup, where he went on a string of fantastic results, to the delight of the Montreal crowd. Juan Martin Del Potro, Wayne Odesnik and Fernando Verdasco all were honorable victims of Frank’s big serve-and-volley game and all three matches went deep in the third set. The quarterfinal match against none other than Rafael Nadal seemed like just icing on the cake, but Frank had other plans in mind. On this Friday Night, where the entire city had its eyes turned to tennis, Dancevic stormed through the first set, breaking in the last game, to the disbelief of most. With a perfect attacking game and a surprisingly strong backhand, Frank was dreaming of the upset, but the fatigue of the week (and Nadal’s well-known fighting spirit) got in the way, as the last two set went straightforwardly to the Spaniard. It was the first time since 1989 that a Canadian reached the quarterfinals, a feat repeated by Raonic in 2012, but for Dancevic it was ‘the experience of a lifetime’. And we’ll all remember it.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Chef Pierrick Boyer Serving Taste of Tennis Down Under

Pierrick Boyer

(January 4, 2013) The Australian Open is less than two weeks away and with the anticipation of an upcoming major, Melbourne will play host many pre-tournament soirees. One of the very special events will be the Swisse Taste of Tennis – where the culinary world meets the tennis world to raise funds for charity. This is the sister event to the Taste of Tennis in New York which has kicked off the US Open for the past 13 years.

Some of the tennis players scheduled to participate in the event include Lleyton Hewitt, Max Myrni, Tamira Paszek, Ivan Lendl, Lucia Safarova, Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, Yaraslava Shvedova and Chanelle Scheepers.

Tennis Panorama News caught up with award-winning international pastry chef, Melbourne resident Pierrick Boyer, who will be one of the featured chefs at Taste of Tennis. Boyer has 21 years in the field working with some of the industry’s most internationally renowned chefs.

Boyer has participated in the event four times. “Let’s not forget it’s a charity event and it is one of my favorite events of the year,” Boyer emphasized. “It is fun, there is beautiful food, we talk about sports and there are great people who want to make a difference. I love giving my time for charities, tennis, food and promoting Melbourne.” Boyer is the Head Pastry Chef of Le Petit Gâteau in Melbourne.

“Yes, I am a big (tennis) fan,” Boyer said. “I’ve been to the Indian Wells Tournament, because I lived nearby for five years and, of course, the Australian Open where, luckily, I did some cooking classes for the tennis players. I had the pleasure to meet Aleksandra Wozniak, Arina and Anastasia Rodionova, Gael Monfils and Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, who are fantastic to see on the court. And I used to play years ago,” Boyer said with a smile.

I asked Boyer if he thought there was a similarity between chefs and tennis players, since both have intense training and travel all over the globe. Also many of players seem to be “foodies.”

“I agree,” said Boyer.” We have this in common with some chefs who travel the world and I am lucky I can do this as well, several countries are already scheduled for my desserts making workshops overseas. But the life of a tennis player is hard as well, loads of traveling and that’s a lot of time away from home.”

As far as which tennis players he thinks would be good pastry chefs, he tips Arina Rodionova and Aleksandra Wozniak. “With a bit of practice Arina Rodionova could be because I know she enjoys my pear and almond tart. She had this for her birthday.”

“Aleksandra Wozniak really enjoyed my signature cake, the brownie passion chocolate crunch, at a previous Taste of Tennis event,” Boyer added.

So what inspired him to launch a career in the world of pastry? “At four or five years old, we were living next to a pastry shop at Croissy Sur Seine, near Saint Germain en Laye! And every time my parents were looking for me, I was next door sampling ice creams, cakes, croissants… hahaha.”

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As far as what special dish he will be preparing for Taste of Tennis, he saidIt’s a gluten free, dairy free, very healthy dessert.”

It’s a Coconut Quinoa organic blueberry, raspberry, coconut crumble. Boyer told me to enjoy it with Gold Label 2011 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

The Swisse Taste of Tennis takes place on January 10, 2013 at Grand Hyatt Melbourne from 7pm-10pm with an after party at Silk Road Melbourne. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.swisseactivetasteoftennis.com.au

The event benefits the charities Diabetes Australia-Victoria and National Institute of Integrated Medicine (NIIM), which will receive 100% of the proceeds raised.

Follow @tasteoftennisau for more information and follow Pierrick Boyer on twitter @PierrickBoyer or his website http://www.pierrickboyer.com/.

 

Karen Pestaina is the woman behind Tennis Panorama News

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Bouchard, Dubois and Wozniack granted Montreal Wild Cards

 

Tennis Canada announced the wild cards for the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. Three Québecers, Eugenie Bouchard , Stéphanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak  will be part of the main draw of this WTA Premier event.

At 18 years old, Bouchard will be making her second appearance in the main draw of the Rogers Cup and her first in Montréal. She’s been on a winning streak these past weeks, racking up an impressive 19 consecutive wins, winning the Wimbledon junior singles and doubles titles and the Granby National Bank Challenger and reaching the quarters of a WTA tournament for the very first time in Washington.

Dubois, 25 years old, will be taking part in her 11th Rogers Cup. She’s had some magical moments in Montréal, especially in 2006 and 2008 when she reached the third round. Currently ranked 151st, she was 87th in the world at the start of the year—a career high. Dubois, who hails from Laval, has just taken part in the London Olympic Games, representing Canada in doubles with compatriot Aleksandra Wozniak.

Wozniak will be taking part in the Rogers Cup for the 10th time. She started out the season strong, climbing from 105th to 52nd in the world. The 24-year-old from Blainville won the $100 000 Nassau Challenger in March and reached the third round of the French Open. Wozniak is also fresh from the London Olympics, where she lost in the second round to Venus Williams. Wozniak will be trying to get past the second round of the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank for the very first time in her career.

The wild cards for the qualifying tournament were also handed out, and there was a strong Canadian contingent. Françoise Abanda (Montréal, QC), Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON), Marianne Jodoin (Varennes, QC), Sonya Molnar (Guelph, ON), Erin Routliffe and Carol Zhao (Richmond Hill, ON) will be playing in the qualifiers along with Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) and Marie-Ève Pelletier (Repentigny, QC), who ranked high enough. The qualifications will get underway tomorrow and continue until Monday, as 64 players will face off for eight spots in the main draw.

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‘The Face-Off’ Nets Raonic a Win over Sampras

By Brodie McPhee

TORONTO, Canada – The master versus the prodigy. The past versus the future. A man whose best days are behind him in Pete Sampras, and a man whose best days are still to come in Milos Raonic. Yet both men are alike in more ways than one.

The big serve is an obvious. So is the smooth motion. The classy, well-tempered, soft-spoken demeanor both carry themselves with may not be. While it was a night of fun and laughs, at the end, both men let their tennis speak for itself.

The Air Canada Centre was the scene for the the “Face-Off” exhibition. The night was hosted by Bob and Mike Bryan‘s father, Wayne Bryan. Though he may be the father of two of the greatest doubles players ever, he acted as if he was born for the role and kept the night moving along seamlessly. First up was the doubles, featuring  Pete Sampras, Milos Raonic, Aleksandra Wozniak, Eugenie Bouchard, ex-hockey player Brad May, actor Hayden Christensen, and two local Canadian TV icons. Players substituted out in between games in the mini-match. The highlight was Christensen, who played some tennis in college and held his own against the pros. Even funnier was Wayne Bryan forcing Bouchard and Wozniak to play “handicapped” by holding Raonic and Christensen’s respective hands as they struggled around the court.

After that came the one set match between Wozniak and Bouchard. Wozniak missed 10 months of the season due to wrist problems, but returned strong winning the $50k Vancouver Challenger and playing well in Toronto. Bouchard, 17, and the No. 4 ranked junior, won the junior Wimbledon title and appears to be well on her way as a name to look out for. The two played solid baseline, side to side tennis that showed off their effective forehands and ability to push the ball deep. After a series of breaks at the end of the set, Wozniak took it 6-4.

After a series of contests and games, two young men from Raonic’s hometown, Thornhill, Ontario, came out to sing a song in tribute of Raonic and his job of promoting the sport in Canada. Part way through, Milos wandered out and had a chuckle while they finished their song. Asked after if he had heard it before, Raonic said that around the time of the Miami tournament “guys in the locker room would set it as their ring tone, and then call each other.”

Finally, we came to the main event. Raonic and Sampras went toe to toe in the first set, and it was incredibly close. Raonic’s serve regularly clocked in at over 210km/h and at points beyond 220km/h. After taking his first game, the classic Seinfeld “another game for Milos!” clipped played on the speakers and caught everyone by surprise, including Raonic. While Sampras’ serve wasn’t that, it was still incredibly effective. Early in the set, he backed up a great first serve with a jumping volley winner that left him shaking in disbelief. Overall, Sampras’ touch at the net didn’t look aged one bit and held up well against Raonic’s numerous passing shots. After each man traded holds 6 times, Raonic took the tiebreak behind an early mini-break.

The second set flew by as Raonic took control. Sampras appeared to be tiring (difficult to fault for a 40-year-old) and Milos’ movement looked the best it’s been since suffering a hip injury at Wimbledon this year. Raonic took the second set and the match, 7-6, 6-1.

Overall the points were generally short, but when stretched, the inventiveness of both men kicked in as they hustled, created openings and hit some incredibly well angled passing shots from all corners of the court.

After the match, Sampras had nothing but praise for the humbled youngster. “I’ve seen a lot of serves in my day, but this kids serve is bigger than big”. Despite describing Raonic as having “all the tools” to succeed, he also stressed patience as the Canadian No. 1 continues to mature. “Don’t expect him to win Wimbledon next year. It’s going to take some time. He can do it but let’s be patient here. Let’s not put too much pressure on the kid.”

Before the match, Raonic still seemed starstruck. “I think I’ve watched him play a couple thousand hours more than he’s watched me,” said the Canadian before the match. After a breakout year also damaged by injury, it was a dream come true to be able to play against his idol in the first tennis match ever hosted at the Air Canada Centre. “It’s been a whirlwind, from the highest to the lowest, but you guys make this night special, and hopefully there’s many more to come.”

Raonic will now travel to Barcelona with coach Galo Blanco where he will put in weeks of conditioning in order to prepare for the January Australian hard court swing, and Canada’s World Group Davis Cup tie in Vancouver against France.

Brodie McPhee is the author of the tennis web site Mind the Racket. He was in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto covering the ‘Face-Off’ for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @MindTheRacket.

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