Bright future for Cdn tennis

Peter Polansky at his home in Thornhill Ontario. (Erin Riley/Sun Media)

Peter Polansky at his home in Thornhill Ontario. (Erin Riley/Sun Media)

KARL HALE

, Last Updated: 3:53 PM ET

Over the past three decades, we have seen several nations lead the tennis charge. In the 1980s it was Germany with Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, the '90s the U.S. with Pete Sampras and Monica Seles. Now the Russians have arrived.

Top-10 tour players Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Chakvetadke and Nadia Petrova all come from Russia (Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva join them in the top 15).

While the Russians dominate the women's game, there are other countries who boast a strong tennis system. Former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo and Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, along with 14 of the top 100 players on the ATP Tour call France home. The best player in the world, Justine Henin and recent retiree Kim Clijsters hail from Belgium. These countries are known for their progressive and innovative high-performance system.

The recent success of Frank Dancevic at Indianapolis was terrific for Canadian tennis. However, those accomplishments are still not the norm for the sport in this country. Despite having more than 1.8 million Canadians participate in tennis each year and hosting two of the largest professional events on the planet, we have struggled to generate a sustainable group of athletes who could compete at the highest level.

Finally, that trend has changed and tennis has a bright future in this country.

High performance was given the spotlight in Canada with an aggressive decision by the Tennis Canada board of directors in April. An annual investment increase of $1 million was committed to the high-performance tennis system.

Two national training centres, one full-time in Montreal, combined with a start-up and transition centre in Toronto, will be home to future Canadian stars.

A robust under-12 program was developed by taking the best international practices from powerhouses Belgium and France. Two new hires brought attention to Canada from the sporting world as junior tennis leader Louis Borfiga from the French Tennis Federation and internationally renowned coach Bob Brett joined the Tennis Canada team.

Borfiga is the new vice-president for high performance athlete development. He worked with current French stars Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau. Brett was hired as high-performance consultant. He has worked with former No. 1 Boris Becker, Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic and rising Indian star Sania Mirza. Borfiga and Brett have the tough task of assessing the Canadian tennis landscape and assist in developing a good crop of top-level athletes.

Several of the best players you will see in Toronto for the Rogers Cup will still be in their teens. It's hard to imagine that ladies barely able to vote are at the top of their sport. However these young women are products of a sport system that puts a racquet in their hand at a young age and provides them with the necessary resources to succeed.

Canada has joined the elite and will soon reap the rewards. As a non-profit organization, Tennis Canada takes net profits from the Rogers Cup events and redirects them into tennis development. When you buy a ticket to watch tennis at the Rogers Cup events, you become a shareholder of the national sport federation and help the future of a new and exciting high-performance program.


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