MIAMI — For the second time in 10 weeks, Sharon Fichman of Toronto earned a decisive victory in her final match to advance Canada to the World Group Two level at Fed Cup tennis for 2014.
Second seeded Fichman and top seeded teammate Eugenie Bouchard edged Ukraine 3-2 in the fifth match of the best of five series on April 21 by defeating Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-3 in the final doubles match. Playing in Kiev, the Canadians upset the favored Ukrainians, who were playing indoors on their home clay court. The Canadians, earning their first World Group Two berth since 2011, also earned their first Fed Cup victory in Europe since 1995.
The Fed Cup is a year round global competition for women involving 64 nations, similar to Davis Cup for men.
Fichman also won the decisive doubles match against Brazil on February 10 in zonal competition to advance Canada to their World Group playoff at Ukraine. Her dramatic victories in 2013 continue a banner year for Fichman at the Fed Cup.
“Once again, Sharon just took control and led our team to victory in the doubles match. Against the Ukrainians, she was everywhere, using great energy. Sharon has the potential to be a great Fed Cup player. She’s very feisty, she’s a proud Canadian and she’s a dream for Canadians to have on the team because that is the kind of player we want to have,” said Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau, who first selected Fichman to play the Fed Cup as a 14-year-old in 2005.
Fichman provided much drama and heroics over the two-day competition. After Bouchard lost the first match to Svitolina, Fichman (ranked 125th in singles) upset the 71st ranked Tsurenko 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-3 to tie the series at 1-1. Hitting one defensive lob after another in long rallies, Fichman forced Ukraine’s top seeded player to commit 91 unforced errors and 16 double faults.
“I am comfortable on the indoor red clay and used a strategy of playing every ball and fighting for every point, waiting for the unforced error and the strategy paid off,” said Fichman following her victory.
Bouchard defeated Tsurenko 6-4, 7-5 in the third match. Fichman lost the fourth match 6-4, 7-6 (5) to Svitolina, but felt optimistic about winning the decisive fifth match.
“I wasn’t worried about losing my singles match because I knew I would get another chance in doubles. As a player, all you can ask for is an opportunity and we made the most of it today,” she said.
“We [the Canadian Fed Cup team] are very excited because we mesh so well,” added the jubilant Fichman, who celebrated with her teammates with an on-court huddle and a party in Kiev following the tie.
Fichman has not won any major titles on the women’s circuit thus far, but she has played the best tennis of her career at the Fed Cup.
”There are many players like Sharon that seem to thrive in the Fed Cup atmosphere of playing for your country, but not necessarily doing as well in individual tournaments. Tennis is more supportive in the team environment at the Fed Cup. All the girls practice together and cheer each other on. What made Sharon’s results impressive was that she won against a higher ranked player and on the road. Tsurenko, despite the support of her home country fans, faltered against Sharon,” said tennis commentator Rennae Stubbs, who played the Fed Cup for Australia.
Given that Canada has played the Fed Cup without top seed Aleksandra Wozniak, who has been recovering from shoulder surgery since last September, Fichman was selected by Bruneau for the Fed Cup as the second seeded Canadian and earned her spot on the team in 2013 with her dramatic wins.
The 22- year-old is the first Jewish player to play the Fed Cup for Canada since Vicki Berner of Vancouver from 1964-68. Fichman has an impressive Fed Cup won/loss record of 22-7 over 23 ties since she started playing Fed Cup in 2005. She finished her junior career ranked fifth in the world in 2006, winning the prestigious Orange Bowl junior title in 2003.
Fichman was born in Toronto two years after her parents immigrated to Canada from Israel in 1988. Her parents moved to Israel after leaving 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 win a gold medal at the 2005 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Should Jesse Levine play Davis Cup for Canada in the World Group semi-finals in September, Fichman and Levine would become the first Canadian Jewish man and woman to play Davis and the Fed Cup in the same year since 1968.