October 4, 2015

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.


Fed Cup Canada vs Serbia: Remembering Novi Sad

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

Fed Cup Canada vs Serbia: Remembering Novi Sad

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin | @earthstroke

(February 7, 2014) MONTREAL – Three years ago almost to the day, I was getting off an overcrowded plane, with a backpack full of red and white memorabilia, eager to explore the country of Novak, Ana and Jelena. For the first time in over four years, Canada had managed to reach the Fed Cup World Group II after a 5-0 win against Argentina in Montreal, and were about to face Serbia in the first round. Being already in Europe, with an opportunity to cover the event for my hometown sports radio station, I couldn’t stop myself from hopping in a plane and making my way to Eastern Europe for the first time.

I will always remember my first moments in Belgrade: while in the most expensive taxi ride of my life (which I later learned was due to my taxi being wild and thus not under any regulations), I witnessed first-hand the passion the Serbians had for tennis. Between huge signs congratulating Novak Djokovic on his Australian Open win and multiple ads featuring Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic spread across the city, you could feel that the country lived and breathed tennis.

This energy was also strongly felt during the tie played in Novi Sad, a quaint and beautiful city on the side of the Danube River, just over an hour away from Belgrade. Even without their two marquee players, the Serbian team led by Jovanovski and Krunic was just elevated by the rowdy crowd. They ended up winning the deciding doubles match, making the unbeaten Jovanovski the national hero for a weekend. One year and three victorious ties later, Serbia reached its first and only Fed Cup final, losing to the Czech Republic.

Here we are three years later, and once again, Canada and Serbia have been drawn to face in the first round of World Group II. Once again, Serbia will come in without its biggest weapons (Jankovic, Ivanovic and Jovanovski). Once again, Canada hasn’t played a World Group match in a few years. And once again, Aleksandra Wozniak will play despite just coming back from a serious injury.

But this time, we too have passion.

It is tough to describe the wave of tennis fandom that has struck Canada over the past few months. It all started with Milos Raonic, who has been solidly in the top 20 for two years and started then to become a household name. Then came the Davis Cup team, who reached the semi-finals last year after upsetting Italy and Spain. Add an all-Canadian semi-final at the Rogers Cup to the mix, and the plot starts thickening. But it all was taken to a whole new level with Eugenie ‘Genie’ Bouchard.

In 2013, she won the WTA Newcomer of the Year award, as well as being voted the Female Athlete of the Year by the Canadian Press. Just a few weeks ago, her semi-final loss to Na Li in the Australian Open was the top news story of the week in the country.  And, the morning after her quarterfinal win against Ana Ivanovic in Melbourne, most of the coffee machine small talks revolved around her victory.

This Fed Cup tie marks her triumphant return to her hometown and will be the first time she plays in Montreal since the summer of 2012. Tennis Canada was smart in using every chance they had to use Genie to promote the event and we can assume that a large part of the crowd will be in Centre Claude-Robillard to catch a glimpse of a future tennis phenomenon. A full house is expected, and it should be red, white and loud. And now, Canadians don’t only expect to perform well, they expect to win and are largely favored to do so.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading out of an overcrowded subway ride, with the same red backpack on my shoulders: as I’ll look out at the colorful mix of tennis fans,  I’m pretty sure I’ll realize that Canada is now just as passionate about tennis as Serbia was three years ago. And I’ll be remembering Novi Sad.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin is covering the Canada – Serbia Fed Cup tie in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News.


Czech Republic Take 2-1 Lead Over Serbia in Davis Cup Final

(November 16, 2013) The Czech Republic stands one win away from claiming the Davis Cup title. On Sunday the doubles rubber went to the Czech team of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek beating Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to give the visiting team a 2-1 lead. The Czech pair is now 14-1 in Davis Cup.

Novak Djokovic will face Tomas Berdych in the opening rubber on day 3.  The Setb has only lost Should Djokovic win, it will force a fifth and deciding rubber with Radek Stepanek playing either Dusan Lajovic or Ilija Bozoljac.

Before Saturday’s doubles rubber, Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic was honored with the Davis Cup Award of Excellence by the ITF and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The award recognizes a Davis Cup player, past or present, who demonstrates a strong commitment to the spirit of the competition. The award was presented on court by ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti and Serbian tennis great Slobodan Zivojinovic, a past recipient of the award.




Venue: Belgrade Arena, Belgrade, SRB (hard – indoors)


Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 75 61 64

Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 63 64 63

Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Ilija Bozoljac/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB) 62 64 76(4)

Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Tomas Berdych (CZE)

Dusan Lajovic (SRB) v Radek Stepanek (CZE)



Serbia Holds Off Bryans in Five-Set Thriller



By Junior Williams


Takes 2-1 lead after Zimonjic, Bozoljac win in five-set marathon.


(April 6, 2013) BOISE, Idaho – Serbia Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic is probably saying, “I told you so.”


He stuck with No. 335th ranked Ilija Bozoljac instead of replacing him with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.


The payoff: Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic defeated top-ranked Americans Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 in a thrilling 4 hour 21- minute doubles match in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at Taco Bell Arena, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s rubbers and an opportunity for Djokovic to clinch the tie in his singles match.


Bozoljac’s powerful serves — many of them rockets at around 135 miles per hour — helped to neutralize the Bryans. Together, Bozoljac and Zimonjic served up 36 aces to the Americans’ twelve.


The 27-year old Bozoljac also came through with a number of backhand winners down the line. his play, combined with the experience of former world number one doubles player Zimonjic, came in handy for the Serbs.


Both teams broke each other midway through the first set, but it was Serbia that struck first by winning the tiebreak on a Zimonjic second serve ace, followed by a winner that clipped the baseline.


The second tiebreak also went to Serbia, helped by a minibreak due to a net cord and a strong service game resulting in three aces.


But the world’s No. 1 doubles team refused to give up. The Americans began their comeback by breaking Bozoljac’s serve in the final game of the third set, as Zimonjic’s block of a Mike Bryan shot sailed beyond the baseline.


The Bryans repeated the feat in the fourth set, as Zimonjic — who was serving this game — knocked a return from the Americans in to the net, knotting up the match at two sets apiece.


In the fifth set, each team managed to hold serve while escaping danger at times, until the 27th game of the set, when Bozoljac’s backhad stab return was sent wide by the Americans to give Serbia a break and a chance to serve out the match.


But there was more drama, as Zimonjic double faulted to give the Bryans two break points and a chance to tie the set at 14-14. That’s when Zimonjic blasted two aces to tie the game at deuce.


After the Bryans staved off one match point on a lob the Serbs couldn’t convert, Zimonjic served out the next two points, ending with an ace to seal the victory for Serbia. The winners hugged each other on the court as their supporters cheered wildly. Despite their disappointment, those rooting for the home team applauded the quality play of both the Serbians and the Americans.


Just how close was the match? Each team scored 217 points.


“For sure, it’s the biggest win in the Davis Cup doubles for me,” said Zimonjic. “We were playing very good.


“This was definitely a great, great performance and great match from me.”


“Anybody who was supposed to play with Nenad was supposed to be the underdog against the Bryans,” Bozoljac said. “We won and I just can’t believe it happened.

“For me, it definitely means a lot because this is my best performance in Davis Cup so far. I knew if I give my 100 percent for one match I could play on a really high level.”


“Have to tip our hats to those guys, obviously,” said a disappointed Bob Bryan.  “Thought they played really well all day.  36 aces, didn’t give us much opportunity, in the fifth especially.
“Just one of those things.  Obviously disappointed we let the team down.”


He’s a guy we haven’t seen too much of on the tour,” Mike Bryan said about journeyman Bozoljac.  “Asked a few questions of guys that have seen him play.  Gave us a few things.  But he served great all day.  He actually was a stronger returner.  There at the end he didn’t show any nerves, came up with the goods, especially on some of those 30‑All points.”


US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier was asked about if Bozoljac’s is a testament to the spirit of Davis Cup “I think inspiration is pretty easy to come by when you’re playing for the colors on your back, US.  We’ve seen a lot of people in this competition rise up.  You look at the numbers next to the guy’s career, you see the performance today, something doesn’t add up.  You clearly see there was some inspiration, chemistry with Nenad on the court, and you say, Too good.”


It was the second consecutive Davis Cup defeat for the Bryans, who back in February lost in the World Group First Round to Brazil’s Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. The winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history is now 20-4 when playing together.


Now the U.S. faces a tall task in tomorrow’s reverse singles, with Djokovic set to take on Sam Querrey in the first match. If Querrey pulls off the upset, it’ll be left to American John Isner and Serb Viktor Troicki to settle the tie.


Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Boise, Idaho covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Serbia for Tennis Panorama News.


Davis Cup: US, Serbia Deadlocked at 1-1; Djokovic, Querrey Victorious in World Group Quarterfinals


Djokovic, Querrey victorious in World Group Quarterfinals

By Junior Williams

Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey

(April 5, 2013) BOISE, Idaho – Sam Querrey rebounded from a two sets to one deficit to defeat Viktor Troicki 7-6 (1), 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, drawing the United States even with Serbia at one match apiece in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at a loud Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State University campus.

In the first match, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic dispatched American John Isner in straight sets 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-5.


Isner got off to a fast start by breaking Djokovic early in the first set, but the Greensboro, North Carolina native failed to hold on to his advantage and went on to lose the first-set tiebreak, courtesy of a Djokovic change-of-pace serve that handcuffed the number 23-ranked player in the world.


From then on it was all Djokovic. He did his best impersonation of a backboard, neutralizing Isner’s powerful serves with solid returns and defense. The Serb wrapped up the match in two hours.


On court in a post-match interview, Djokovic was asked about how he executed his game plan against Isner.


His response: “I executed perfectly.”

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic


Djokovic elaborated further in the news conference. “I guess one of the tactics — crucial points — was to get as many balls back on the return games and try to use my serve very efficiently and not give him any opportunities to atack my second serve. So I had a very high percentage of first serves in. That helped my confidence, and I could play with less pressure in his service games.”


Isner agreed with Djokovic that the Australian Open champion’s ability to break back in the first set was the turning point the match.


“I let him back in it,” said the American. “Granted, he played a good game, but I didn’t make many first serves that game. Doing that against this guy is not a good recipe.

“You want to make first serves, and I didn’t do in that one game in the first set. That was critical because I think he became a lot more comfortable at that point.”


Isner had seventeen aces in the match, but his first serve percentage was 54%, compared with 77% for Djokovic.


The Serb’s win set up another Davis Cup pressure cooker for Querrey, the top-ranked American and world No. 20. In the World Group First Round back in February, the Californian ousted Brazil’s Thiago Alves in a fifth and deciding rubber to send the U.S. into the quarterfinals.


Querrey and Troicki battled for 3 hours and 20 minutes in a match marked by long rallies, powerful serves and lots of unforced errors: Querrey had 82, Troicki 62.  Querrey was going for his shots, while Troicki – like Djokovic – appeared to be returning everything in sight.


The crowd erupted in the fifth set, when Querrey broke the world’s 44th-ranked player to go up 5-4, on a Troicki shot that hit the net cord but stayed on the Serbian’s side of the court. The American went on to hold serve in the next and final game.


Querrey said finding his groove in the fourth set was key: “I stayed positive and kept with the game plan and played aggressive. That fourth set served extremely well and was fortunate to get two breaks and that gave me a lot of momentum going into the fifth set.”


Troicki said he began to tire in the fourth set:


“I get a bit tired mentally and also physically my legs were not 100 percent and got a little bit slower. I could say fourth set I just like wasn’t there.”


But Troicki added both he and Querrey played well in the fifth set, and that it just came down to who seized the opportunities.


“I had some chances early in the fifth,” said Troicki. “I had some chances early in the fifth.  I had some break points; didn’t use them.  He used his chances when he had a break point in a crucial moment for me. So I could say I was unlucky to lose this serve and also, yeah, to lose the match.  But that’s tennis.”


Next up: A crucial Saturday doubles match with Americans Bob and Mike Bryan — the number one team in the world — scheduled to play Serbian doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac. But Novak Djokovic says he’s “still in the option” for doubles.


Whether Djokovic plays or not, U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier says Saturday’s match is “not a must‑win.  We won’t be eliminated, nor will Serbia no matter what happens tomorrow.”

“We certainly want to win.  There is no doubt about that.  It’s an important match for both squads.  We’ll have two singles players ready to fire on Sunday.”


Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Boise, Idaho covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Serbia for Tennis Panorama News.