August 5, 2020

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Good story in French-language Montreal newspaper La Presse Saturday, as they scooped Tennis Canada’s planned Monday announcement about a financial aid program for the country’s lower-ranked players.

The national federation is already dealing with a $25 million shortfall with the cancellation of the Coupe Rogers and the expected cancellation of the Rogers Cup.

But sponsor National Bank is stepping up with a bursary program to help the players affected by the full-stop of tennis because of the coronavirus.

Pros ranked between No. 100 and No. 750 in singles, between No. 25 and No. 100 in doubles, in the top 100 of the ITF junior rankings, and in the top 50 in the wheelchair rankings will be eligible for grants between $10,000 – $20,000, La Presse reported.

As per the official announcement Monday, the breakdown is as follows: $20,000 will go to players ranked between 100-500 in singles and in the Top 100 in doubles, or Top 20 in the ITF wheelchair rankings. Those ranked between 501-750 in singles, between 21-50 in the ITF wheelchair rankings or in the top 100 in the juniors will get $10,000.

That works out to a total of $340,000 in financial aid.

A strong tennis supporter

Here’s the official quote from Banque Nationale executive vice-president for Personal and Customer Experience Lucie Blanchet, after Tennis Canada made the official announcement Monday morning.

“Our commitment to Canadian tennis runs deep. Our athletes are continuing to have standout performances at all levels of competition and we are very proud of them. They are at a pivotal stage in their development and that is why it is important to support them financially during these difficult times. With this gesture, we are encouraging them to pursue the development of their talent and their ambitions.”

That’s only some 23 players in all – but all will appreciate the help paying the bills as the restart of pro tennis doesn’t appear imminent. As well, with the cutbacks, all the players who are above junior age won’t be getting the assistance they had been from Tennis Canada.

As an example, among the casualties of the furloughs and layoffs that come into effect next month is Frederic Niemeyer, who coached both Brayden Schnur and Filip Peliwo.

Some of them – perhaps as many as 10 – also may get some help from the relief fund set up by the four grand Slams, the ITF and the WTA and ATP Tours that was announced earlier this week.

Young Leylah Annie Fernandez, who was on a roll and had received a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells before the shutdown, would be one of those. She also continues to get support from Tennis Canada because she is still of junior age. And she’ll get this grant. So that will go a long way towards helping her pick up where she left off, when tennis re-starts.

The bank has long been a strong sponsor of tennis at the lower levels, notably a series of Challenger events as well as junior tennis.

For the full list of players, check out the La Presse story.

No Dabrowski, no Bouchard

No help for Bouchard or Dabrowski. But Sharon Fichman, No. 48 in doubles, will get a helping hand.

Gatineau’s Mélodie Collard, who is the only Canadian junior ranked in the top 50 but receives little help from Tennis Canada because she prefers to work with her longtime coach at home in Gatineau, Que., is among the group who will receive a cheque.

(Collard has received support from Banque Nationale for the last four years, through their Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence du Québec.)

So is American Carson Branstine, who switched and played for Canada a few years ago, but was injured this year as she planned to play her freshman year at USC. Branstine is transferring to the University of Virginia next season.

Notably, top-10 doubles star Gabriela Dabrowski and the three youngsters – Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov – won’t be eligible.

Auger-Aliassime and Andreescu, who were still receiving significant help from Tennis Canada for their coaching and support staff, have already taken on those expenses with the major cutbacks at the federation because of the pandemic.

Also not eligible is Genie Bouchard. Bouchard is currently ranked No. 332 and we’re told that Tennis Canada had been paying for coach Jorge Todero before the stoppage. But the criteria for the financial help excludes players who have earned $2.5 million or more in their careers.

Bouchard’s career earnings are close to $6.5 million US, although she has earned less than $42,000 US this season. For Dabrowski, who has several Grand Slam titles in mixed and a lot of success in the women’s doubles, the career earnings stand at $2.7 million US.