Sharon Fichman takes a moment after winning her match on Wednesday at the Odlum Brown VanOpen tennis tournament in West Vancouver.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG
WEST VANCOUVER - Odlum Brown VanOpen tournament director Ryan Clark sees a changing of the guard atop women's tennis in Canada.
For the last half decade, he noted, it's been Aleksandra Wozniak and Stephanie Dubois leading the way. Both are past winners of the VanOpen, Dubois in 2009 and Wozniak in 2011, but both have been surpassed by Eugenie Bouchard and Sharon Fichman on the WTA rankings.
To be fair, Wozniak and Dubois have been dogged by injuries in recent years so they may again rise up. For now, however, they are beneath Bouchard and Fichman. Bouchard, who is not at the VanOpen, is ranked 58th while Fichman, who is competing this week at the Hollyburn Country Club, is 119th. Wozniak sits 140th and Dubois 163rd.
“It's been interesting,” Clark said, minutes after Fichman trounced Australia's Monique Adamczak 6-0, 6-1 on centre court. “For almost the last five or six years, I'd say it's been Stephanie and Aleksandra in front of the crowd. They've been the top two Canadians for a very long time. Now the younger ones like Sharon and Eugenie are coming up. So it's flipped a bit. There are a good bunch of Canadian girls and it will be interesting to see how they can push each other to better levels.”
Fichman needed no pushing Wednesday as she dominated against her Aussie opponent. A Toronto native, the 22-year-old Fichman is now based in Vancouver where her coach Larry Jurovich lives. She won a lot as a junior and is an eight-time winner on the second tier ITF circuit. Now she is trying to make inroads on the WTA tour.
Her style can be summed up in a single word: relentless.
“In general, I pride myself on my footwork and my tenacity and my ability to fight and get another ball and another ball and another ball back when most girls wouldn't,” explained Fichman, seeded seventh at the VanOpen.
Ranked as high as 105th at one point, Fichman is determined to crack the top 100 and join Bouchard. Wozniak (21st) and Dubois (87th) have already been there. The retired Rebecca Marino, now a summer intern with baseball's Vancouver Canadians, once stood at No. 38.
“I definitely believe I will get there,” Fichman said. “To be honest with you, I can't control the number but what I can control is how I play, my mentality and my preparation for tournaments and matches. As long as I keep doing that, and I keep my energy and my effort up, the rankings will take care of themselves. Wherever I'm at, I'm at.”
She also understands there is a country dying to cheer her on if she can get over the next hump. But, she added, she feels no pressure to be the next one.
“To me, Canada is the best country in the world and I feel really glad and happy that I have the support of a fantastic country,” Fichman said. “It's exciting and it's motivating. It's not pressure. It's that much more exciting for me to want to get there. It gives me that extra boost to dig deeper and do my best and make Canada proud.”
Several hours after Fichman completed her match, Dubois took out fellow Canadian Heidi El Tabakh 7-5, 6-3 to join Fichman in the second round. A third Canadian, 18-year-old Carol Zhao of Toronto, also reached the second round after defeating Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-3, 7-6.
“It's great to have younger players doing well,” noted Dubois, 26. “Sharon has been doing really well the last year and Eugenie, too. It's just good for everybody. That means Canadian tennis is doing well. Me and Alek have been in the top 100 so we've been there and it's great that other younger girls are getting there. Maybe they have been a bit inspired by me and Alek.”
Dubois might have her hands full in her second-round match against Japan's third-seeded Misaki Doi, who is ranked 106th in the world. Fichman is scheduled to meet another Japanese player, qualifier Miharu Imanishi, while Zhao will face fifth-seeded Kurumi Nara, ranked 110th.
On the men's side of the draw, local favourite Vasek Pospisil and fellow Davis Cupper Frank Dancevic are the lone remaining Canadians. Pospisil is also the highest remaining seed among the men after top-seeded Russian Evgeny Donskoy was upset in the first round by England's Daniel Evans.
Pospisil will meet American Bradley Klahn in his second-round match while Dancevic faces third-seeded German Benjamin Becker, who is no relation to Boris.
For complete results and match schedule, see www.vanopen.com
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