What’s Wrong With Canadian Tennis?

published: Jan, 22, 2024

by: Amy Lundy

Canadian tennis is having a rough go of it, eh? Only a single maple leaf adorns the ATP Top 100. Same goes for the WTA. At number 30, Felix Auger-Aliassime has admitted to feeling pressure to perform. It’s tough to lug the expectations of an entire nation around the globe. Likewise, ranked 35 in the world, Leylah Fernandez continually fights to prove her appearance in the 2021 US Open Final was not a fluke.

Photo by Jim Chung/Tennis Connected

Elsewhere the comebacks of Canadians Milos Raonic and Bianca Andreescu have been derailed by cascading injuries. Genie Bouchard is pivoting to pickleball. Vasek Pospisil has taken an activist role in the sport, with his latest cause du jour being the tennis balls themselves.

It’s kind of a hot mess. Or a cold mess.

Just a decade ago, professional tennis in Canada showed so much promise. Here’s a look at the factors contributing to its decline.

Bad Luck

Injuries have become an increasingly meaningful part of professional tennis, and Canadian tennis has been nabbed by the injury monster.

Both the power and the grind of the sport are at all-time highs in tennis history, and yet the leaders in tennis refuse to make meaningful calendar reform. That leaves players susceptible to injury, as they push themselves to their absolute limits. Injuries strike every nation, but Canada is particularly vulnerable because it doesn’t have a deep roster of talent.

Which leads to reason number two why Canadian tennis is struggling.

Money

Compared to tennis powerhouses like the United States or European countries, Canada has fewer resources invested in tennis development programs. This includes funding for coaching, facilities and player support systems.

The big reason: Canada doesn’t have a Grand Slam, and the U.S. does.

According to the financial monitoring website GrowJo.com, Tennis Canada’s current operating income is $93.6 million per year. In stark contrast, the same figure for the United States Tennis Association in 2022 was $529 million. How much of that came from the U.S. Open? A staggering $472 million. Plenty of honey in that deuce, right there.

The yield has payed off in the States: A full ten Americans stand ranked inside the ATP Top 100, with plenty of youth to keep the faction strong. On the women’s side, it’s an even more impressive 16 women currently in the Top 100, led by superstar Coco Gauff.

Success breeds more success, and money makes more money.

Culture

In the Great North, tennis competes with ice hockey, lacrosse and other popular sports. The prevalence of these sports can draw potential athletes away from tennis, impacting the talent pool.

To make matters worse, Canada’s vast geography poses challenges for players to connect with high-quality training facilities and coaches. Traveling long distances for competitions and training can be logistically challenging and financially burdensome. It’s not like Spain, France or Italy.

Climate

Finally, the obvious. Canada experiences harsh winters, limiting the time players can spend outdoors practicing and playing tennis. This can hinder skill development and competition readiness.

Canada does have some residence requirements that requires citizens to spend some time physically present at home. It’s possible to get around some of that as a professional athlete, but moving to Florida to train is not always feasible at the youth and developmental level.

If Canada truly wants to rev up its tennis operation, it will need to “go all Italy” on the sport. Money, resources and energy. That’s the bottom line. Without those elements, no amount of stylish Lululemon will fix Canadian tennis.

Amy Lundy

Amy Lundy is a reporter whose work has been featured on ESPN, CNN and The Golf Channel. She is Director of Films at The Tennis Congress.

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