Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ethics and Hard Work of Sharon Fichman

While most tennis fans are probably associating Canada with the rising star of Eugenie Bouchard, the Canadians are witnessing the constant improvement of a former very promising junior, who is now proving herself in the big tour: Sharon Fichman.

The 23 year old girl from Toronto has this year reached her career’s best ranking at world number 77, confirming once again her constant improvement over the years.

She made her top 100 debut during this 2014 and she clearly means to stay, as her results keep improving week after week. In a lovely and relaxed chat, she explained me how this all could happen:

“It’s a lot of things, you can’t just pin point one thing,” she said. “You know, I work really hard and I know a lot of girl on tour do too, but I just try to be one of the hardest workers and every day I like to look back and make sure that I did my absolute best with whatever I had and I think that’s probably the biggest factor in the way my tennis is going, in my attitude.

“My team is great, you know, I love working with my coach: he is fantastic, he believes in me, I believe in him and, you know, he is not here with me this week, I have someone else with me and he is doing a great job. You just plan you work and work you plan and that’s it.”

Fichman has a great defensive game, characterized by a remarkable footwork and fast movements, but what has improved a lot over the years is her anticipation and how much flatter her shots are.

Despite being 1.63m tall (5ft4), her serve has improved dramatically and so the power of her groundstrokes.

This combination of defensive and offensive abilities has led to results equally as good on all surfaces and against a variety of opponents.

“The biggest thing for me is that, you know, I have my game style, I have my objectives and my goals when I’m playing, no matter the surface,” she explained to me. “You know, you still stick to your core values when you are playing; of course you have to make some few adjustments, a few tweaks, that’s natural, and I do that at the best of my ability.

“But in the end I focus on myself because that’s all I can control, that’s really all I can ask out of myself today.”

Earlier this spring, as an epitome to this improvements, she won her first $100,000 event in Cagnes-sur-Mer and then came very close to upsetting Jelena Jankovic at Roland Garros.

Despite the loss, she took lots of positives out of that match and, like you would expect from such a fierce personality, an additional motivation for the future.

“It’s great to have had that experience, I’m very disappointed still, that I lost, I thought that it was close and I had my chances,” she admitted. “At 3-3 in the third, I had a break point I didn’t convert, I learnt from it and next time I’ll just be more prepared, be ready.

“I look forward to playing her and other top players again and learning from my mistakes and correcting it.

“I’m always looking forward, how can I get better, how can I improve and I know that one of the things that comes along with improving is you have better opponents. Obviously every single person you play on every given day, you know, anything can happen, everyone is out there to win and compete hard and fight, but of course as you play bigger events you’re gonna play players that are more accomplished in their careers and I expect a tough battle every time I’m gonna play such players.”

 Despite her lovely Canadian accent when speaking and her undeniably big love for her home country –as much as she named “making history with the Canadian team” as one of her best memories on a tennis court-, if you happen to follow one of her matches, you will soon realize that her way of cheering for points comes from somewhere else.

“My family, my background is eastern European: they are Romanian and Hungarian, so “haide” is “c’mon” in Romanian, so… I don’t know, it’s something that, growing up with my parents coming to matches supporting me, sometimes they would just say something in another language and I guess it just stuck with me.

“I don’t speak other than English, well, my French is decent, my Hungarian is decent, you know, my Romanian ehmmm…” and she paused herself with a funny face.

So where does she go from here?

“I don’t like putting numbers on things because you can’t control numbers,” she said. “You know, it’s such a cliché-answer but I just want to keep improving every day and I want to get more confident.

“I’m confident on my ability but I just want to keep doing it every time I’m on court and keep pushing myself, you know, and put myself in tougher situations and come out of it the best I can.

“I just want to keep playing bigger tournaments and improving and learning and getting better and I think that, at the end of the day, it is the most important thing. I think that is gonna get me to the numbers and, you know, the ranking and the seeding and all that stuff that comes with them.”

Surely tennis fans will look for her names during the American summer on hard courts, including the home event of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. But, as she said, there is one event that cannot compare with others for her:

“I love playing at home, but I think my favorite, the one that I enjoy, you know, I always look back on - and I think it’s just the city and everything - I love the Us Open, I love New York City. It’s super fun, it’s just a great place."

The most remarkable aspect of this tenacious girl came about in the very last question I asked. There are lots of players that have great work ethics, but it is not as frequent to see such a great passion for the sport and yet respect for the opponents as she honestly expressed.

She named many girls when I asked about her best friends on tour: Maria Sanchez, Johanna Konta, Olga Savchuk.

Then she added: “I mean, let me be honest with you, this is such a tough career path and I respect everybody that chooses to do it. You know, because it is such a difficult career path, you needs some remarkable people along the way and I’m fortunate to know a lot of people that kinda are on the same path as me.

“I hope they see me in that way too and it’s hard to just pinpoint a handful of people, but overall there are great people on tour, guys and girls.”

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