2/13/2015 0 Comments
Photo Credit: Graham Hughes/CP
This article could just as easily be titled “Why Tennis Canada Should Move the Federation Cup Tie to Romania” or “Why Canada Should Host the Federation Cup Tie vs. Romania”. The pros and cons for each are mirror images of each other. In other words, this upcoming tie in April 2015 is a no-win situation for Canada.
Just like the most recent tie played in Quebec City vs. the Czech Republic, Tennis Canada has been handed a situation where they will (most likely) be without the star of the show. Eugenie Bouchard, now focused on her career as one of the top players in the world, will likely take a pass on this tie again because it interferes with her schedule. It’s probably best that Canadian tennis fans come to terms with that right now so that they won’t be entirely disappointed when it happens in April. The tie in Quebec City, despite being played in (almost) her backyard, just happened to be scheduled right up against the next week of a tournament in Belgium that Bouchard was entered.
I understand Bouchard’s problem. Last year, after playing a Fed Cup tie in Montreal, she hopped on a plane almost as soon as she hit the last ball for a tournament in Europe. She arrived jet lagged and nowhere near tournament play level. It probably planted a huge seed of doubt in her mind about ever being put in a situation like that again. Consequently, the situation that happened in Quebec City was already pre-ordained. In April, after the at-home tie with Romania, Bouchard is scheduled to play a tournament the following week in Germany. Don’t expect Bouchard to make the same mistake she made last year.
As she should be, Bouchard is focused on her career as one of the best tennis players on the planet. That Federation Cup should pop up on a couple of occasions per year is like an irritating mosquito when you look at it from the standpoint of an athlete who is dedicated to training, traveling and competing. On the other hand, Fed Cup is part of the overall tennis machine, as well as the Olympics – as a way of growing the game both internationally and in each country. When a country like Canada rises to the most elite level in a team-oriented event like Fed Cup and Davis Cup, it raises the stature of the game and gets more and more people involved in the sport.
Tennis Canada needs Fed Cup and Davis Cup ties to be played at home as much as possible because they generate money to grow both the game and the federation. Although it is a huge advantage to have a tie played at home, in this type of circumstance, Tennis Canada should seriously think about deferring the tie to be played in Romania on clay instead of in Canada on a hard court. I think a lot of people (sports commentators, tennis analysts, the media) underestimate Canada’s tennis proficiency on clay – especially our female players. Bouchard is excellent on clay. The best performances from our female tennis players have been on clay (Bassett, Kelesi, Hy, Wozniak). I think the surface suits their style of play instead of the power-based male players.
If Bouchard were to play on clay in Romania, I think Canada would have an excellent chance to win. With a healthy Sharon Fichman alongside Gaby Dabrowski, we’d have a superior doubles team. The loss of the home court advantage would be a tough pill to swallow, but the team would have more depth and no one would be under pressure to have to travel on the red-eye to the next tournament because it’s basically next door in the same time zone.
The outcome of this draw was never going to favour Canada. That being said, the issue of the WTA Tour and the Fed Cup and their ongoing compatibility problem is something that is going to have to be addressed. Some solutions:
– Give WTA ranking points to players who play Fed Cup.
– Schedule Fed Cup during the silly seasons (from the get go in January; a couple weeks after Wimbledon; a couple weeks after the U.S. Open; and at the end of the year).
– Set aside a week or two during the year to play it (like it used to be) with ranking points equal to a top tournament.
Something’s got to change.
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