FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – One of the challenges for Canadian Rebecca Marino in 2023 has been finding the right coaching fit.
The 32-year-old from Vancouver is hoping she has taken a step in the right direction as she takes on Québécois former player and coach Fred Niemeyer for Cincinnati and the US Open – and, she hopes, beyond.
“I saw him in Montreal during the week of National Bank Open. We just started chatting and it just came up that obviously I’m looking for a coach, and he had some availability. So we’re just trialing right now. And so far I really like him,” said Marino, who will play Romania’s Patricia Tig in the first round on Tuesday. “I remember when he was playing, so I have a lot of respect for his playing career. And as far as his coaching career, he has a really great CV in that way, so I’m hoping it continues to go well.“
“He’s very passionate about what he does, and I really appreciate that. And he puts a lot of work and effort into not just on court, but also off court, really thinking through what’s in my best interest for my game and not necessarily trying to mold it to become something different. I’m still trying to learn a little bit how he works, too. So, it’s a feeling-out process, but so far it’s been great,” she added.
New Brunswick-born and Rock Forest, Que. raised, Niemeyer – now 46 – was one of the rare male players from Quebec during his era to fashion a credible pro career without any of the help and significant resources that are currently available to Canadian players.
There were long periods, before Frank Dancevic came along, when he was the No. 1 player in Canada.
Niemeyer did yeoman’s work in Davis Cup, representing Canada basically every year from 1999 through 2009 – 20 nominations in all, with a 13-2 record in doubles especially standing out back during the era when Canada, more often than not, would have to head down to South America to grind on the red clay in the Americans zone, best-of-five, three-day format.
He and Daniel Nestor were virtually undefeated together.
From his first pro match in 1997, Niemeyer wrapped it up in 2009 on the stadium court in Montreal against then No. 1 Roger Federer, a player he was very friendly with despite the disparity in their circumstances. Niemeyer had beaten No. 39 Igor Kunitsyn to get there; Federer won, 7-6 (3), 6-4, and it was quite an emotional moment for the quiet, thoughtful Quebecer.
Federer said in a post-match interview that they’d played 11 years before in Switzerland, in front of about … two people. So it was great fun that they got to play his finale in Niemeyer’s home, before more than 11,000.
Among Niemeyer’s best moments were in Davis Cup against Chile in 2008, and winning the Vancouver Challenger in 2007, beating Sam Querrey in the final. He also played for Canada at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
He reached a career high of No. 134 in singles and No. 142 in doubles.
Quick pivot to coaching
Once he officially retired, Niemeyer quickly pivoted to coaching and joined the Tennis Canada development team in Montreal.
He worked with young Milos Raonic. And by 2011, he was here in New York working with a young kid named … Vasek Pospisil.
Here’s what they sounded like back then – this is VINTAGE vid, folks.
Niemeyer also worked with fellow Canadians Brayden Schnur and Filip Peliwo, with Schnur even as recently as this summer.
The challenge for this devoted family man was then, and continues to be, the time required away from the family to be a full-time coach. Although now, his kids are a little older.
When the pandemic hit, there were a lot of furloughs and layoffs – and some abjectly curious choices made on that front based upon a … variety of factors. Niemeyer was one of the casualties of that purge, and struck out on his own.