Gallagher: Is Canada’s sudden prowess in tennis just a fluke?

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil celebrates after he and American jack Sock won the men’s doubles championship at Wimbledon last month.
 

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil celebrates after he and American jack Sock won the men’s doubles championship at Wimbledon last month.

Photograph by: Jan Kruger, Getty Images

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It’s pretty clear Canada has made great strides in a lot of sports, the popular slogan these days being the country is “running out of sports at which it sucks.”

Clearly on the world stage, basketball and tennis are the sports where there has been the most recent significant progress and when it comes to the latter there are all sorts of different theories on who should be taking the credit.

Of course the people at Tennis Canada love to take bows and talk about the people they’ve brought into the centre in Montreal where at some point virtually everyone in the country has trained for at least a short time. But consider that Eugenie Bouchard was 12 when she moved to Florida so she could train full time, so you certainly can’t say her real formative years in terms of developing into a star were spent in Montreal, even though that’s where she lives.

Why Canada is suddenly on the map in international tennis is a question a lot of our players get on a regular basis whenever they are being interviewed, and at Wimbledon one enterprising freelance writer for espn.com named Kamakshi Tandon decided to ask them all the same question and put the responses together.

And while Vasek Pospisil was the most complimentary of the three stars with respect to Tennis Canada, the general consensus seemed to be that it’s pure fluke and not much more.

And they have a point. All three made the most major strides in their development out of the country, Milos Raonic in Spain, Pospisil in the Czech Republic and Bouchard in the U.S.

“Obviously as much as people would like to say it’s not a coincidence, it also is,” Pospisil told Tandon. “Tennis Canada, what they’ve done is incredible, without them this wouldn’t have happened. But it wouldn’t have happened without the talent and the individuals themselves. A lot of things have to happen for someone to do well at this sport. So it’s not as simple as changing a few things at the Federation.

“A few of us have done well around the same time,” said Bouchard. “I think that’s a happy coincidence. For example me, or Milos and Vasek, we’ve succeeded in completely different ways. I wouldn’t pinpoint a specific common fact. But I think it’s a good thing. It’s good timing I think because of that, the popularity [of tennis] has grown in Canada.”

Of course Tennis Canada will get an increasing amount of the credit if Vancouver’s junior Wimbledon champion Filip Peliwo continues his rise up the rankings where he sits at 227 and players like Francoise Abanda of Montreal, who is just 17 and already 244 in the WTA rankings without really playing professionally, keep performing. And while everyone is onside with the Tennis Centre and the changes in the organization starting at the top with CEO Michael Downey, only Pospisil was handing out the bouquets.

“There is a good program in place but I believe a big part of it is one person breaks through,” said Raonic, likely referring to himself. “You’ve got to go out and train, you got to go run, you got to do weights, you got to play on court, you see that somebody is already succeeding through that system.”

Pospisil, who won his second round match 7-5,7-5 over American Alex Kuznetsov in Bogota on Wednesday, saved his greatest praise for getting the juniors into coaching situations whereby they can make the next step if they have the talent and drive.

“I think when (head of high performance development at Tennis Canada) Louis Borfiga came on the scene, when Michael Downey hired him, that kind of set the platform and allowed all this to happen.

“The coaching decisions, the coaches they brought in, they made a huge difference. That’s where Borfiga had a big role. He’s a very wise man. He really knows tennis. He doesn’t seem [easy] to like when you don’t know him, but he knows what he’s doing.

“Borfiga knew Frederic (Pospisil’s coach Fontang) was available, and knew that he was a good coach and said ‘Oh, that would be a good coach to have. And so I made a trial with him and obviously it was great. So that’s how I have the coach I have right now. The same goes for Milos. They found a great coach for him in (former coach) Galo Blanco. So they helped us use our potential and grow.”

 
 
 
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Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil celebrates after he and American jack Sock won the men’s doubles championship at Wimbledon last month.
 

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil celebrates after he and American jack Sock won the men’s doubles championship at Wimbledon last month.

Photograph by: Jan Kruger, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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