MIAMI — Sharon Fichman of Toronto led the way for Canada to advance in Fed Cup tennis play with three wins in singles and two in doubles against four nations at the Americas zonal competition in Colombia recently.
The Canadians will now play in Ukraine in the world Group 2 playoffs in April, reaching the Group 2 playoff for the first time since 2011.
Fed Cup tennis is a year-round global competition for women involving 64 nations, much as Davis Cup is for men.
Fichman and her three teammates were impressive in combining to defeat their opponents with a stunning 9-1 win-loss record over the three days of competition. Fichman played both singles and doubles, as the number 2 seeded Canadian, behind Eugenie Bouchard.
After sweeping Peru 3-0, Venezuela 3-0, and host nation Colombia 2-0, the Canadians had a tougher time in the final round-robin matches against Brazil. In the first match, Fichman won the first set easily 6-0 against Paulina Goncalves, but the Brazilian rallied in the final two sets to win the match 0-6, 6-0, 6-4 to give Brazil a 1-0 lead.
“I lost concentration and did not fight as hard as I should have. Goncalves deserves credit for coming from behind for the win,” Fichman said following the loss.
Bouchard evened things for Canada at 1-1 after she beat Telina Pereira 6-2, 6-2 to set up the final match in doubles.
Fichman teamed with Gabriela Dabrowski in a hard fought doubles win 7-6(4), 7-5 over Pereira and Laura Pigossi to defeat Brazil 2-1 and advance to the Group 2 playoffs.
Trailing 2-5 in the opening set, Dabrowski and Fichman rallied with two breaks of service to take the first set to a 7-4 tie break win and broke serve once in the second set for the decisive victory against the Brazilians.
“I felt much better with the doubles win for my team after I lost. It was a doubles match that we could have easily lost, but Gabriela and I fought hard and pulled out the win,” said Fichman, who celebrated the win with her teammates by rallying around the Canadian flag after the final match.
“Sharon showed much heart, with her belief in herself and fought hard in every match,” Canadian Fed Cup coach Sylvan Bruneau said. “I was especially impressed how she rallied following her loss.”
Prior to the final round-robin matches against Brazil, Fichman contributed to Canada’s victory by defeating Katerina Miranda-Chang of Peru 6-2, 6-2 and Andrea Gamiz of Venezuela 6-1, 7-5, as well as having a 6-2, 6-1 doubles win with Dabrowski against Ferri Angles Paz and Ximera Siles-Luna of Peru.
“Hopefully, our Fed Cup will keep the positive momentum going… in Ukraine,” Bruneau said.
The 22-year-old Fichman is the first Jewish player to play Fed Cup for Canada since Vicki Berner of Vancouver who played from 1964 to 1968. Fichman has a total win-loss record of 20-6 since she started playing Fed Cup in 2005.
Since the Fed Cup competition, Fichman has improved her ranking to 128th (as of Feb. 25) on the pro tennis circuit, her highest since being ranked No. 114 in March 2010.
”Winning in Fed Cup has given Sharon a lot of confidence. I expect her ranking to continue to climb this year,” Bruneau said.
Fichman finished her junior career ranked fifth in the world in 2006, and she won the prestigious Orange Bowl junior title in 2003.
She was born in Toronto two years after her parents immigrated from Israel in 1988. Her parents moved to Israel from Romania in 1983.
Fichman started playing tennis at age five, following her brother Thomas, who was a top Canadian player in the 14-and-under category. She is the youngest athlete, at age 14, to have won a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, which she did in 2005.
Should Jesse Levine play Davis Cup for Canada in April as expected, Fichman and Levine would become the first Canadian Jewish man and woman to play Davis and Fed Cup in the same year since 1968.