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Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Fichman soars at Rogers Cup tournament

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Sharon Fichman

Based on what she accomplished on court at the recent Rogers Cup tennis tournament, Sharon Fichman of Toronto will forever remember playing the best tennis of her career in the recent tournament at the Rexall Centre in her hometown.

For the first time, she advanced to the second round of the Rogers Cup in singles and, with Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa, upset the world’s number 1 ranked doubles team to finish in the doubles semifinals.

Since age 13, when Fichman was Canada’s top ranked junior player, many expected that she would become Canada’s best women’s tennis player. But expectations fell after she turned pro, as Fichman struggled, maintaining a ranking between 100 and 200, playing in the less lucrative challenger events.

Fichman’s performance at the Rogers Cup has changed her outlook. She has finally blossomed into a player who can challenge the top stars in the women’s pro game. Only 22, she still has many opportunities to develop her game and move up the rankings.

Fichman set new milestones throughout the week, thrilling the crowd with competitive matches, and accomplishing the following:

• teaming with Dabrowski to become the first all-Canadian women’s doubles team to finish in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup since 1969.

• breaking into the top 100 singles for the highest ranking of her career in by finishing in the second round of the Rogers Cup and establishing herself as Canada’s second highest ranked singles player.

• along with Jesse Levine of Ottawa, becoming the first Jewish Canadian man and woman to finish in the second round of the Rogers Cup at the same tournament since 1969. Mike Belkin of Montreal and Vicky Berner of Vancouver accomplished that feat in Toronto when the tournament was then called the Canadian Open.

“It was so special to play in your hometown and do so well. My parents took me to the Rogers Cup when I was six years old and I was watching my favourite players, like Monica [Seles], Serena and Venus [Williams], and I knew right there that I wanted to be a tennis player just like them,” a jubilant Fichman said after her final match.

“Now, years later, it’s come back full circle in my hometown. It’s so great to see that I have so much more support from the people I grew up with and from the city I live in and love. I’m so glad I sacrificed everything in my life for this.”

Both Fichman and Levine were proud of inspiring other Jewish Canadians to compete in tennis.

“It’s very special for both of us to make history. I’m a very proud Jew, wearing a Star of David chain at all my matches. Sharon and I are good friends and I’m glad we both could inspire other Jewish Canadians to compete,” Levine said from the Rogers Cup men’s tournament in Montreal.

“That’s pretty cool. It’s really exciting that we can inspire other Jewish Canadians to play tennis. I have so much respect for Jesse because we grew up in a similar era. Hopefully, Jesse and I will keep doing better and better,” Fichman said.

Newcomer Julia Glushko of Israel also had a fine performance at the Rogers Cup, winning two qualifying round matches before challenging former U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur of Australia in the main draw. Glushko defeated American Christina McHale 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 and Dabrowski 6-3, 6-4 before losing to Stosur in three sets, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

“I had one of the best weeks in my career. I competed well against Stosur and proved to be tough by winning the first set. I now have confidence that I can play against the top players in the game,” said the 25-year-old Israeli.

Ranked 137, the 23-year-old Glushko was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and immigrated with her parents to Israel at age eight. Her parents, both tennis instructors, honed Julia’s game at the Israel Tennis Centers. Glushko won the 2012 Israeli national championship over Shahar Peer, making Israelis feel that Glushko will soon be Israel’s top ranked singles player.

Peer’s low ranking of 179 at Wimbledon prevented her from gaining entry into qualifying at the Rogers Cup. Ranked 11th in the world in 2011, Peer’s ranking has been declining since. However, in the last few weeks, Peer won a tournament in China and was a finalist at Baku to raise her ranking to number 100.

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