Canadian politicians may be debating the merits or shortcomings of immigration during the upcoming federal election, but Canadian tennis fans are giving a solid thumbs-up to the idea of welcoming people from other countries.
Had there been tough restrictions on immigration through the years, it may have been difficult for the likes of families named Andreescu, Raonic, Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil from even taking up residence in our country, let alone bringing sporting glory to our home and native land.
The latest headliner is Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old who was on the fringes of the sport as little as 10 months ago, before she made it to the final of the ABS Classic in New Zealand in January. Proving it was no fluke, she followed that up with a victory at the Indian Wells tournament in Palm Springs in March, and then won the Rogers Cup title in Toronto in August when health issues forced Serena Williams to forfeit the final. Her latest trip down Glory Lane came in New York earlier this month, when Andreescu stunned the tennis world with a straight-set victory over Williams in the U.S. Open final, capping two weeks of Bianca Fever across Canada. Nice paycheque, too: $3.85 million (U.S.)
It may not have happened had the Andreescu family, carrying the totality of their belongings in two suitcases, not moved from Romania to Canada, where Bianca was born.
The family moved back to Romania when Bianca was young, and it was in Pitesti, Romania, where she started playing tennis at age 7. They moved back to Canada a few years later and Bianca was 11 when she became involved with Tennis Canada.
There is a constant theme to the backgrounds of other top Canadian tennis players:
— Toronto’s Milos Raonic, who missed this year’s U.S. Open due to injury, was born in Yugoslavia (now Montenegro) and is of Serb heritage. His parents, worried about political unrest in the Balkans, moved the family to Brampton, Ont., in 1994, when Milos was three.
— Félix Auger-Aliassime, currently the top-ranked male in our country, was born in Canada, but his father emigrated from Togo, and married a Quebec woman.
— Denis Shapovalov, the third-ranked Canadian who made it to the third round of the U.S. Open, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, the son of Russian-Israeli citizens Tessa and Viktor Shapovalov. They moved from Russia to Tel Aviv when the Soviet Union was collapsing, later settling in Canada.
— Vasek Pospisil, from Vernon, B.C., is the fourth-ranked Canadian male. His parents Milos and Mila escaped the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1988 and wound up in Vernon, where Vasek was born in 1990.
Immigration, it seems, has been good for the fortunes of Canadian tennis. Say tennis fans from coast to coast: Keep ’em coming.
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