Canada will be well-represented at next week’s BNP Paribas World Team Cup as two teams have travelled to Sardinia, Italy to compete for the biggest team title in wheelchair tennis. Considered to be the Davis Cup and Fed Cup of wheelchair tennis, the tournament will see 25 nations play across four different categories (men’s, women’s, quad, and junior) from May 1-7, 2017. The nation has qualified in the quad and junior draws, and will be sending an under-18 team to World Team Cup for the first time in 15 years.
An experienced Canadian contingent has been selected to the World Team Cup quad team, led by Rob Shaw (North Bay, Ont.), Canada’s reigning national champion and at world No. 22 the highest-ranked player on the squad. Rounding out the roster are world No. 27 Mika Ishikawa (Vancouver), No. 28 Gary Luker (Stoney Creek, Ont.), and former world No. 2 Sarah Hunter (Surrey, BC).
“I’m starting to get really excited for the competition to begin,” said Shaw of the upcoming week of play. “We know that the competition is going to be very challenging but our training over the next two days will prepare us for it. I’m looking forward to testing my game next week and seeing how I play against the best in the world.”
Canada enters this year’s competition as the No. 7 seeds. The team qualified for direct entry in the quad division after finishing in sixth place in 2016. An equal or better result remains the main objective for the team this year.
Looking to take a page from their seasoned compatriots will be Canada’s junior team, filled with three promising young talents. Sixteen-year-old Puisand Lai (Toronto) currently holds a No. 12 world ranking in the girls’ category and she will be joined two 17-year-olds from British Columbia, boys’ world No. 16 Thomas Venos (Anmore, BC) and No. 23 Tomas Bourassa (Delta, BC).
This will be the first time Canadian juniors compete at World Team Cup since 2002, and they will hold a No. 3 seeding in the draw. Canada’s 15-year absence from the junior world stage was snapped when the International Tennis Federation awarded the country a wild card in March.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Canada and to compete against my fellow juniors from across the globe,” said Bourassa, the 2016 Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships men’s singles runner-up. “I am honoured to have been selected as a part of Team Canada for this year’s competition.”
Supporting Team Canada in Sardinia will be quad coach Christian Gingras, junior coach Steve Manley, team manager Kai Schrameyer, and athletic therapist Mara Chaplin.
“We were the first team to arrive, and were able to fit in a solid two days of practice before competition.” said Schrameyer, team manager in Italy and Tennis Canada’s national wheelchair tennis coach. “The club members and officials have gone out of their way to help us and make us feel welcome. After getting over the initial jet lag, the two teams are healthy and in good spirit. We’re looking forward to the week ahead.”
Both the quad and junior teams will be competing against seven other countries for their respective titles. The tournament will see the nations split into two round-robin groups. Play will get underway on May 1 in Sardinia, Italy at two host venues, Baia di Conte and Alghero Tennis Club.