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Rivard: Reaping the rewards

Aug 09, 2022
written by: Paul Rivard
written by: Paul Rivard

For some of our most promising tennis players, the National Bank Open is a reward—the chance to share the court with the world elite.

It’s also a reward for those who oversee tennis development in Canada, like Guillaume Marx, head of performance at Tennis Canada and supervisor of the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers, who can finally take stock of the years of efforts invested in the young players.

You’ll see the tall Frenchman around the courts, watching and assessing the competitors as they try to get ahead in the thick and hostile jungle of international tennis.

“It’s a great tournament for me and for all the coaches who’ve been involved in a player’s development. And to see that player competing in such an important tournament here is the culmination of a lot of effort,” explained Marx.

Kudos to Galarneau and Diallo

Guillaume Marx didn’t miss any of his qualifiers’ matches. Liam Draxl of Ontario and Jaden Weekes, Juan Carlos Aguilar and Gabriel Diallo of Montréal took on some big names. Of the four, only Diallo won a match—and what a match! He defeated No.59 James Duckworth of Australia but had to bow out of the next duel against Hugo Gaston of France.

“Gab won a $25,000 tournament two months ago. And beating a Top 60 here in Montréal is definitely the event of the qualies. There’s also been Alexis these past few months. With his final last week at the Winnipeg Challenger, he’s No.230.”

For Diallo and the other Canadians, the wild cards were indeed a reward from Tennis Canada.

“People don’t realize it, but the level of the qualifiers at a Masters 1000 like Montréal is even higher than at a Grand Slam. It’s only Top 100 players. The qualifiers in a Grand Slam are ranked between No.110 and No.250 in the world. So, the bar is high. And yes, it’s a reward.”

Multi-storey building

Under the leadership of Hatem McDadi, senior vice president of tennis development at Tennis Canada, Guillaume Marx and his team oversee athletes at different levels. Marx also confirmed that a new program had recently been introduced.

“We created a support program for NCAA Top 20 players and Top 40 ITF juniors in their first or second year of transition. They can benefit from coaching and training at all Canadian tournaments.”

There are lower levels, too. Namely, the National Tennis Centre in Montréal and the regional centres in Toronto and Vancouver. It was announced that the former No.65 Frank Dancevic of Ontario will be in charge of the development of a new generation of players, as Martin Laurendeau continues his work with prospects transitioning to the professional level.

On Monday night, Dancevic and Marx sat together in the stands at Denis Shapovalov’s match.

Photo: Tennis TV

Finally, another former Canadian pro, Jocelyn Robichaud, will head the pipeline of under-15 talents.

And Félix?

It would be impossible not to talk to Guillaume Marx about Félix Auger-Aliassime, whom he coached on the ATP Tour until November 2020. Coincidentally, the two had just talked for about 15 minutes before Marx sat down for the interview.

Photo: @RolexPMasters 2020

“It’s funny because that’s the new generation we talked about: Diallo, in particular, and Galarneau, who is Félix’s childhood friend. He asks about them, and you can tell he’s very interested in seeing them succeed.”

Marx concludes by expressing admiration for the great server Félix has become. In the ATP stats, he’s fourth in the race for aces, behind names like John Isner, Reilly Opelka and Maxime Cressy. Auger-Aliassime hits an average of 10 per match.

“I have to give him credit because he’s worked on his serve a lot since the start of his career. He’s accepted a lot of change and, today, he’s a very dominant player. I’d say the same about his backhand slice, which is really strong.”

It would also be impossible not talk about rewards when you’ve watched Félix grow and rise all the way to the Top 10.  

That’s a reward Guillaume Marx and all the other coaches are reaping, as they wait for the next one.