Sharon Fichman at the Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto. (Vidal Keslassy photo)
The historic run of Bianca Andreescu becoming the first Canadian woman in 50 years to win the Rogers Cup tennis tournament since Faye Urban of Windsor, Ont. won the 1969 Canadian Open, as it was then called, in Toronto provoked memories of the late Jewish Canadian tennis player Vicki Berner of Vancouver (1945-2017).
Berner was a finalist to Urban at the 1969 Canadian Open singles competition, the best finish ever for a Jewish Canadian player at the Canadian Open. She also teamed with Urban to win the doubles title at the Canadian Open four years in a row from 1965-69.
After winning gold in singles and doubles in 1961 at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Berner represented Canada on the Fed Cup teams in the 1960s and was ranked as the number 1 Canadian tennis player in 1971. She was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall Of Fame in 1995.
“I know and respect all that both Faye Urban and Vicki Berner accomplished 50 years ago and knowing that I made Canadian tennis history by winning the Rogers Cup today is a dream come true for me,” said Andreescu following her historical win on Aug. 11.
Along with Andreescu’s feat, the Rogers Cup tournament also featured the return of Sharon Fichman of Toronto at the Rogers Cup at age 28 after a two-year absence.
Playing in doubles with Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal, the Canadian duo came up short in losing their opening match to American Abigail Spears and Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine 7-6(8), 6-3.
“I was hoping for a better result in my hometown, but our opponents were serving on fire and we just could not keep up with them,” said Fichman.
The Canadian duo had their best moments in the match trailing 5-1 in the first set tiebreak, winning four points in a row to level the tiebreak at 5-5 and again at 8-8 before Kichenok/Spears won the next two points to win the tiebreak.
Despite the loss, Fichman was elated to be playing doubles again after hr absence, due to various injuries and needing a mental break from playing competitive professional tennis weekly for eleven consecutive years (2005-16).
“I stepped way from playing tennis due to a mix of things. I was struggling to return consistently to tournaments between 2014-16 due to multiple injuries, including knee surgery and it took a toll on me both mentally and physically. I needed the time away from competing and often thought that I may never return to play again.”
Fichman was also encouraged to play competitive tennis again by her fiance, Jewish Canadian 2014 Olympic figure skating medalist Dylan Moscovitch.
“Dylan almost died in an accident on Dece. 29, 2017. It was a deeply pivotal moment for both him and me. Dylan retired from competition in 2018 and felt it was important for me to play professional tennis again. His inspired me to try and I am so happy that I made the decision to play professional tennis again.”
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Fichman had her best results in doubles over the past two months, winning a tournament in Latvia and finishing as a quarter-finalist in two other tournaments to boost her doubles ranking to No. 87.
“In addition to playing Fed Cup for Canada, I hope to compete for Canada next summer at the 2020 Olympic Games,” said Fichman.
Fichman’s long career in tennis is highlighted by being the youngest player, at age 14, to play Fed Cup for Canada as well as setting a world record (at age 14) that still stands by winning the gold medal in singles tennis at the 2005 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Also competing in Toronto was Camila Giorgi of Italy, the top ranked Jewish female player at No. 52, who lost her opening round match to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2, 6-2.
At the IGA Stadium in Montreal, meanwhile, Canadian Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., ranked No. 32 in singles, exceeded expectations by finishing as a semifinalist in the doubles tournament with Rohan Bopanna of India on Aug. 10.
Denis Shapovalov at the Rogers Cup tournament in Montreal. (Vidal Keslassy photo)
In the singles draw, Shapovalov began his opening round match by defeating Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France 6-3, 7-5 by his steady left-handed serve, scoring six aces to seal the victory.
In the next round, Shapovalov made many unforced errors, including five doubles faults at serve and a missed overhand shot at net to lose to number two seed Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 despite a pro-Canadian crowd urging Shapovalov on.
“I really enjoyed my matches on court, even losing on court to Thiem. I can really look at the fact that I took Thiem to the third set in a positive way,” said the 20-year-old Shapovalov.
Instead of playing only in singles, Shapovalov decided to compete in doubles to make his week at the Rogers Cup productive. Teaming with Bopanna, the Canadian/Indian duo defeated Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France 4-6,6-1,10-6, American Taylor Fritz and Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 and winning by a walkover over Benoit Paire of France and Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland before losing in the semi-final round to Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof, both of The Netherlands, in two tie breaker sets 7-6 (3), 7-6(7).
“I am proud to have played doubles with a wonderful partner and it helped my play in singles, particularly at the net.”
Shapovalov, who is Canada’s highest ranked doubles player at No. 139, will be able to compete for Canada in Davis Cup and in the 2020 Olympics in both singles and doubles.
“I love the team competition and would love for Canada to win the Davis Cup as well at the 2020 Olympics,” said Shapovalov.
Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, the highest ranked Jewish player on the men’s pro circuit at No. 23, had high expectations of improving on his 2017 Rogers Cup as a quarter-finalist as he entered the 2019 Rogers Cup by winning a tournament in Mexico in late July.
He won his opening round match by defeating Italian Marco Cecchinato of Italy 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 before losing in the second round to Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-2, 7-5.
“I wanted to do better at the Rogers Cup and building on my tournament win in Mexico, but I could not fare well against Bautista Agut, who is a rising star in tennis,” said Schwartzman.
At five feet, seven inches, Schwartzman is one of the shortest players on the men’s professional circuit who has done well enough to be ranked in the top 30 for five years.
“I always feel great winning matches against the big guys, as he did in the final in the Mexico tournament by defeating six foot four inch American Taylor Fritz.
Schwartzman played tennis for Argentina at the Maccabiah Games in 2009 and represented his nation in Davis Cup play since 2015.