Quebec is churning out exceptional tennis players.... why?
Leyla Fernandez is the biggest name in Canadian sports right now.
The power, the speed, that indomitable spirit — remarkable for any player, let alone someone who just turned 19.
It has the whole world asking how Canadians — and in particular, Quebecers — got so good at tennis.
And the answer starts, of all places, on a baseball field.
FROM THE DIAMOND TO THE COURT
Jarry Park was home to the Montreal Expos between 1969 and 1976.
But after the Expos left for the Olympic Stadium, Jarry Park started hosting tennis tournaments.
Eugene Lapierre, Vice President of Tennis Canada, says the sport's governing body didn't like tennis being played in an old ballpark, so they built a brand new tennis stadium.
"From then on, it really took off," he said. "I mean the tournament became so successful, and we were able to put so much more money into the game afterwards."
Part of that money went to building a national tennis centre. Not long after it opened in 2007, it began churning out tennis stars.
"One of the first students we had was Milos Raonic and he reached the Wimbledon final," said Lapierre.
Genie Bouchard trained there, and so did 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andrescu.
Not to mention Felix Auger-Aliassime and Leylah Fernandez, who also passed through.
"I think we’ve started a trend, I hope it’s going to continue," said Lapierre.
Lapierre says part of the success was attracting great players, who he says have great heads on their shoulders.
But he believes the secret weapon is the centre's VP of High Performance, Louis Borfiga.
"The guy was in charge, for 20 years in France, of all the top French players."
He says Borfiga made Canadian players realize they can win at the highest level.
"Canadians are not shy anymore of what they can do on the international scene."
TSN tennis analyst Mark Masters says it ultimately comes down to the player, and Canada keeps finding gems.
"Canada is a country of immigrants. This generation of players are all tied to immigrant stories are all the children of immigrants," he said. "Dennis Shapovalov, his parents are from the soviet union by way of Israel, Milos Raonic through Montenegro, Fernandez with a father from Ecuador and a mom with Filipina roots."
"Even more than the national tennis centre, Canada has given these players a chance to pursue their dreams."