June 24, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Vernon B.C.’s Bennetto wins first pro title

(Photo: Princeton University Athletics)

ROLAND GARROS – Leena Bennetto, a 20-year-old Canadian who just completed her junior year at Princeton, is out on the road this summer and has just bagged her first professional title.

Bennetto and Janice Tjen of Indonesia won the doubles at a $15,000 ITF in Monastir, Tunisia on Saturday, beating No. 3 seeds Patricia Paukstyte (LTU) and Alica Rusova (SVK) 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

The pair lost just one set in their four wins – the first one.

Tjen, 22, just completed her collegiate career at Pepperdine by making the NCAA doubles final. Bennetto turns 21 on Canada Day.

Bennetto, who doesn’t currently have a singles ranking, had received a wild card into the tournament in singles this week. Her career high of No. 1130 came in 2019, before COVID and college.

There are number of interesting things about Bennetto, who hasn’t had much of a profile on the “national” Tennis Canada junior scene; she has trained out of the regional pod in Vancouver.

One is that she shares a hometown with Davis Cup hero and Wimbledon doubles champion Vasek Pospisil: Vernon, B.C.

The other is that she’s a Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed when she was about 10.

With Alexander Zverev, a fellow Type 1 diabetic who only went public with it a few years ago despite dealing with it most of his life, playing in the Roland Garros final on Sunday, the timing is serendipitous.

Here’s a super-interesting article about Bennetto and the way she manages the diabetes, from the Princeton Tigers website.

The above-linked story said Bennetto intended to turn pro after high school (always a slippery slope, but that’s typically what they want to do at that age). Then the pandemic hit.

And like many, it threw the best-laid plans awry. She made the decision to go Ivy League at Princeton, where she was an ITA all-Academic this year.

Bennetto was quite good early on; it wasn’t until later in her junior years that she left Canada to compete abroad in individual events. But when she did, she had success. She was part of the Canadian 14-and-under team (along with Rachel Krzyzak and Mélodie Collard) that competed in the ITF world junior finals in Prostejov, Czechia in 2017. Bennetto defeated Linda Fruhvirtova, who was 12 to her 14, in straight sets. Fruhvirtova broke into the top 50 on the WTA Tour last summer.

Father Murray a former player and pro

Bennetto was born in Hong Kong where her Edmonton-born father Murray, now a real-estate broker in Vernon, was a tennis coach for a number of years. Murray Bennetto played a few pro events back in his day and even was nominated once for a Davis Cup tie for Hong Kong, for which he qualified because he’d exceeded the three-year residency requirement.

Bennetto and his wife Dimple, who is Indian, met in Hong Kong and had their two children there before relocating back to Canada.

Six-year break

Nearly six years ago, barely 15, Bennetto reached the quarterfinals of the $60,000 ITF in Granby. It was only her third pro event. And it would be nearly six years before she played another one.

Fast forward to three weeks ago, when Bennetto got back on the professional match court.

She travelled to Monastir, one of the notorious Futures factories where they hold events just about every week. If you can win some matches, you can make moves and not break the bank.

Bennetto didn’t get out of the singles qualifying the first two weeks before getting the main draw wild card this week.

She had played just one prior pro doubles tournament, all the way back in 2018. And Benneto lost with a local player in the first round last week in Tunisia in her second career event.

But this week, with Tjen, trophy time.

Next week, another tournament in Tunisia.

A great way to start the summer. And who knows, maybe a career.

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