The championship week has begun! The Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas, held at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, welcomes Team Canada and Team Latvia this Friday and Saturday.
The pre-drop press conference with Adrians Zguns (Latvia) and Heidi El Tabakh (Canada), was a chance for us to ask premilitary questions while both coaches were still feeling relaxed during practice days. “It should be a good week while we are here. We’re looking forward to these matches. I believe in my team, and I think it’s actually quite good because young players, it’s their chance to step it up and make a difference for us,” said Adrian. Jelena Ostapenko will not be playing this weekend due to injuries in Miami, so this gives the younger players of the team an opportunity to step it up this week.
The mindset, of course, is to win; the girls are young and they’re motivated, how does Coach Adrians keep the motivation to come on top, meanwhile teaching the importance of teamwork? “I like to think I know how motivate them. But I they should be very motivated themselves too. It’s a great opportunity this week because they don’t get a chance to play, usually we have Jelena or Anastasija Sevastova playing. So I think they understand how exciting this is for them and I think they’re looking forward to it and I think they’re going to have a good chance now.
“All of them the best ones. I really believe in each one of them. That’s why they’re here and so we’ll see. We’re going to, like I said, have a good week of practice and I truly believe in every one of the players and that’s why it’s exciting, you know?” exclaims Adrian when asked what his best player is at the moment.
One of these young players is Darja Semenistaja, (left handed, singles ranking 389; doubles ranking 504) at just 19 years old, her talent and potential have not gone unnoticed, “I see a lot of good qualities in her game. And I think she’s happy to be here and it’s certainly exciting, she going to learn a lot this week, I think, for her career going forward. So she’s a good addition to the team for sure,” said Adrian. There are some new players and they are hungry to be out on the court with this opportunity to play against high level competition. What is their strength? Motivation and the belief in themselves.
Heidi, Team Canada Captain, has her first home tie and gets to play in front of a home crowd “I feel like I’m going to get some goosebumps once we walk on the court. It’s very exciting. The players are very excited, especially Rebecca Marino. It’s her hometown. So yeah, we all look forward to it.” Is it an advantage? Certainly is on home court, but it won’t change their level of play or the result… just an offering of an extra ‘boost’. Heidi knows a thing or two about being a young female player; having gone through what the younger players on her team are experiencing she can help guide them with strengths from experience, “I understand the emotions and what the players go through during the match and just being on tour in general, the ups and downs. So, I feel like it prepared me to handle the players on the court, understand the emotions that they’re going through and adjust accordingly. I definitely helped prepare me be a coach and the way I relate to the girls; the way I relay the messages. Sometimes on the court, it’s not about tactics or strategies. It’s more mental. And I feel like also having a couple ties under my belt now, I feel like I am more knowledgeable with every tie.
We can all agree the mental state of young adults in 2022 are much different then back in 2002, so how does Heidi take what she knows and applies it to her team living in a different world from what she has known it to be? “I have Leylah, which is maybe not a normal example. She matured at a very, very young age. In her first tie she was 16, but I feel like she was way beyond her years. And so, I feel like nowadays you start to see a lot of young players who are trying to make it on tour and actually in the top hundred a lot more than a couple years ago. I feel like the maturity level maybe is a bit higher again nowadays. For me, it’s a pleasure to work with the young. They’re eager to improve; Then you get the mentors, and the mentors help the younger players as well; Especially in our team, I think we have a really good relationship with the players. But yeah, so I believe in our young and upcoming players, for sure.”
Team Canada is boasting with different player styles: Leylah’s goal is to be a top 10 player with her all-court game; Rebecca Marino, has lots of strength, big serve, big ground stroke; Francoise Abanda and Carol Zhao, consistent players especially at Fed Cup; Gabriela Dabrowski, double specialist and team veteran. “I’m confident my team. I think we have a pretty solid team and a pretty good chance to move forward in qualifying,” said Heidi.
Before heading out on court, Heidi makes sure they do a team cheer in the locker room pre-match, and keeps them focused and motivated being on the chair throughout the match. Knowing when to talk to them is just as important as knowing when to give them space, a challenging limbo for the coaches to understand!
Three, Two, One, Canada!
Both Coach Adrians and Coach Heidi were in unison that their main job is to support them and get them ready for the matches this weekend.
Good luck girls!
Thank you to our Media Team sponsors:
Mile’s End Motors, Parc Fermé, Murrick Insurance, K.Ko Hair Studio, Cocoa Tanning