Canadian Fed Cup tennis player Sharon Fichman of Toronto and her teammates were already celebrating winning their April 20 Fed Cup tie against Slovakia in Quebec City prior Fichman to taking to the court for her doubles match with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski.
With last week’s Fed Cup 3-1 win in the best-of-five match Fed Cup World Group playoff over the Slovaks, Canada made tennis history with its victory by advancing to the world group of eight nations that will compete in 2015 for the Fed Cup championship. This marks the first time that Canada has reached the world group since Fed Cup play expanded to include 70 nations in 1990.
The only negative result for the Canadians was the loss by Dabrowski and Fichman in the final doubles match. However, the defeat was a “dead rubber,” meaning the result wasn’t necessary for Canada to advance.
Dabrowski and Fichman put up a good fight against the Slovakian team of Janette Husarrova and Anna Schmidlova. They lost the first set 6-4, but rebounded with a 7-5 win in the second, only to lose in the third set tie-breaker 11-9 after Fichman made errors on two forehand shots at 9-9 .
“I’m not pleased with the loss, but it was more important to me that our team won and made history for Canada. Fed Cup is very special for me. Unlike the individual tournaments, I heard everyone screaming and yelling for us, and it’s an atmosphere that can’t be duplicated. It’s a lot more fun to celebrate winning with your team mates than celebrating alone,” Fichman said after her match
Fed Cup is a year-round global competition for women in tennis, similar to Davis Cup for men.
As Canada’s top singles player, Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., clinched the Fed Cup tie with her 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Jana Cepelova, Fichman and her teammates, all sporting Canadian flags on their faces, hugged Bouchard in an on-court celebration.
“We matured as a team, defeating four nations in a row over two years – Columbia, Ukraine, Serbia and Slovakia – to advance to the world group,” said Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau.
“Sharon was very important for us to advance. Her crucial single and doubles wins last year against Columbia and Ukraine put us in a strong position,” he added. “At only 23, Sharon is still young and can play both singles and doubles for us, and our depth is important to compete with the strong teams we will be facing in 2015.”
So far, 2014 has been a banner year for Fichman. She’s Canada’s second-best female tennis player (with a ranking of 87) in singles and the top Canadian doubles player (ranked No. 56) as well.
This year, she has defeated four top 50 singles players at tournaments, including her close friend Shahar Peer of Israel, to reach her career-high ranking in singles.
Fichman has always made herself available to play for Canada, even when it meant she would lose prize money and ranking points by forgoing tournaments to play Fed Cup. She’s also the youngest person ever, at age 14, to play Fed Cup for Canada, beginning in 2005.
“I have absolutely no regrets about playing Fed Cup, even if I have to bypass tournaments. The experience of sharing the ups and downs with your teammates is such a contrast to what we normally do, since tennis is otherwise an individual sport. Playing for Canada makes me stronger mentally, as well as being proud of all the milestones I’ve achieved”.
Fichman also made history as the youngest athlete ever, at 14, to win a gold medal for her nation at the Maccabiah Games in 2005.
“I felt the importance of playing for Canada even then. What made playing the Maccabiah Games even more special was sharing my Jewish heritage and developing friendships as there was more to going to Israel than playing my matches,” she said.
“I have citizenship for both Canada and Israel and have so many relatives there that I feel so much at home there as I do in Toronto”.
Fichman is the first Jewish player to play Fed Cup for Canada since Vicki Berner of Vancouver did so from 1965 to 1968.
Fichman finished her junior career ranked fifth in the world in 2006, winning the prestigious Orange Bowl junior title in 2003.
She was born in Toronto two years after her parents immigrated to Canada from Israel in 1988. Her parents came to Israel after leaving Romania in 1983. She started playing tennis at age five and starting wining tournaments at age six.
To learn more on Fed Cup, go to www.fedcup.com.