MONTREAL – Winning an Olympic medal isn’t the definition of success in every sport.
Just ask some of the athletes who were able to test their skills against the best female tennis player in the country, Aleksandra Wozniak.
The 22-year-old Canadian, currently ranked 50th in the world, ended an intense three-week training period, which saw her practicing seven hours a day, in a relaxing fashion Thursday – by hitting serves to Canadian Olympic medal winners Charles Hamelin, Marianne St. Gelais, Kim St. Pierre, Caroline Ouellet, Tania Vicent and Daniele Sauvageau at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium.
Wozniak is due to play back-to-back-to-back in the Stanford, San Diego and Cincinnati tournaments before returning to Montreal to compete in the Rogers Cup Aug. 13-22.
"It’s a less serious day than usual," Wozniak said before starting the clinic for Olympians. "Training is always serious, so here it’s a bit more relaxed. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do."
For Vancouver speed-skating champs Charles Hamelin and Marianne St. Gelais, the clinic was their first real experience with the sport.
"I didn’t hesitate for long when they proposed this to me. It’s not every day that you get the chance to hit some balls with the best female player in the country. I’m learning with every hit. I like tennis and I’m definitely going to play in my spare time," said Hamelin, who won two gold medals in short-track relays at the Vancouver Games.
For Hamelin’s girlfriend, St. Gelais, any past experience with a ball and tennis racket has been confined to a few swings while on a beach vacations. She said she enjoyed the opportunity to meet Wozniak and other athletes from the province. St. Gelais, who came away from Vancouver with two bronze medals in short-track speed skating, said she’s also a big fan of Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.
St. Pierre used the event to prove she knows how to handle a tennis racket. The hockey goaltender said she used to play tennis.
"I played several sports when I was young. I played hockey in winter and tennis in the summer," she said. "Then I played softball and soccer and I often participated in tournaments, so I had to put tennis aside. It may be these two sports that pushed me towards a team sport. Still, I got the feel back quickly and it’s not every day that you can get advice from a pro player."
The season has not gone as planned for Wozniak, who had hoped to jump into the top 20 on the world rankings.
"I’ve been through six hard months," she said. "It was tough on my morale and I lost some of the passion for tennis. We changed some of the aspects of my game with my former coach and it didn’t work.
"So I went back with Christian Kordasz, who I worked with in 2008 when I won in Stanford, and I immediately saw a positive change."
Wozniak, who hails from Blainville, Que., battled hard against Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon only to see victory slip through her fingers.
"I regained my confidence at the Roland-Garros tournament against Elena Dementieva, while we had long rallies and lots of breaks. Christian changed my game technique as well as the strategy. I was too aggressive before. I’m practically in top shape and I don’t have any injuries, so I’m confident that I’ll do well in the next tournament," said Wozniak, adding that she wants to end her season on a good note.
Wozniak has a 2010 singles record of 14-15.