Sharon Fichman and her quest for court glory
Forest Hill’s fiery tennis ace on the pressures of the pro tour and her fave ‘cheat day’ eats
Photo courtesy of Tennis Canada
For as long as she can remember, Sharon Fichman has always been serious about two things: tennis and winning. Shortly after Fichman picked up an old racket at the age of five and began practicing in Viewmount Park near her home in Forest Hill, Fichman’s parent’s realized their daughter was talented beyond her years.
They entered her into her first tournament one year later, and at the age of six, Fichman started competing, and winning, against opponents almost twice her age. “It didn’t matter what your age was; if I was playing you on the other side of the court, in my mind, I was going to beat you,” says Fichman, now 22. “I was very feisty and very competitive in that sense. Looking back now, it sounds pretty funny, but I took it very seriously.”
Though she loved the sport, Fichman admits that in those early days, it was the thrill of winning that pushed her to pursue a career as a professional tennis player, and she’s certainly had a lot of thrills ever since. “I wanted more trophies,” she said. “I was addicted to winning.”
At the age of 13, Fichman won the Orange Bowl junior title and was ranked second in the world under 14. “In Canada, I’ve set some pretty great records,” she adds. “I think I was the youngest player on the Fed Cup team, and the youngest player to win under-18 nationals.”
Fichman turned pro in 2009 at the age of 18, and by the following year, she had climbed the ranks to become number 120 in the world, competing and winning against opponents with years more experience. But after reaching that career high ranking, things started to fall apart in 2010. “I tore my hamstring, and I wasn’t able to run on a treadmill pain-free for eight months, and that really got me down,” she says. “Some family passed away during that time, and my brother went off to (live in) Israel, and I had stopped working with my coach, who had helped me get there.”
Fichman says that she was perhaps too eager to get back into the game after recovering from her injury, and when she returned in 2011, it wasn’t long before she blew out her ankle. That’s when she realized she had been pushing herself too hard. Though Fichman had to take a break from her competitive lifestyle, she believes that the difficulty she experienced during that time ultimately made her a stronger person. “When it rains, it pours,” she says, “but it can’t rain forever. Life always throws curveballs at you, and ups and downs are normal; you just have to keep getting back up every time you get knocked down.”
When Fichman returned in mid-2012, she did exactly that: beating her old personal best and climbing her way back to number 105 in the world, but she’s not finished yet.
“I definitely want to get to the top 50, and when I reach that, I want to keep setting more goals,” she says.
Fichman adds that she also hopes to compete in the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but it wouldn’t be the first time she’s had the honour of representing her country in an international competition.
Earlier this year, Fichman, along with her doubles partner, Eugenie Bouchard, beat the Ukrainian team in Kiev to clinch a spot to compete in the Fed Cup World Group II in 2014, returning Canada to the world stage after a two-year absence. “I’m really excited that we’re back in. I really feel like we belong there,” says Fichman. “I’m honoured to be one of the few that get to represent Canada around the world.”
Fichman says her Fed Cup team has been inspired by the performance of Canada’s Davis Cup team, who will play Serbia in September for a spot in the final, making this the first time that both of Canada’s men’s and women’s teams will compete in the World Group in the same year. “The fact that the guys are doing so well, it’s so exciting, and it really gives us motivation,” she says. “I really think I speak on behalf of the girls when I say that we want to be there, too. The fact that they did it just gives us that inspiration and motivation to do it.”
Fichman has played competitive tennis all over the world, but says she always looks forward to opportunities to play in front of her home crowd in Toronto. Having her friends and family in the crowd to cheer her on only pushes her to win. “Roger’s Cup is probably one of my favorite tournaments,” she says. “The fact that it’s in my hometown is so nice. I get to stay at home, which never gets to happen. I have all my family and friends come out in support; it’s good fun.”
Fichman says that for the Rogers Cup, she is “preparing to win and believing that I’ll win, and I think that’s what it takes to be a winner.” She adds, “It will be fun and hopefully I get a good crowd out there supporting me and the rest of the Canadian girls. I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”
Though her parents still live in Forest Hill, Fichman says she only gets to spend a few weeks each year in Toronto, dividing the rest of her time between training in Vancouver and competing internationally. “I spend most of my time travelling, but when I’m home in Toronto, I stay here,” she said, referring to her parents’ house in Forest Hill. “When I am home, I like to spend it with my family. So they tolerate me. It’s nice; we spend a lot of time together that way. My favourite place in Forest Hill to have my ‘cheat days’ is at Phipps Bakery Café on Eglinton Avenue. I dare you to find one thing in that bakery that doesn’t taste phenomenal.”
While home, Fichman enjoys going for walks with her mom through the neighborhood, often stopping off at Yogurty’s at Bathurst and Eglinton for a quick frozen yogurt, or Phipps Bakery Café on Eglinton for a pastry, and exploring new homes and renovations that have sprung up since her last visit.
“We like to walk through the neighbouring streets to look at all the beautiful houses and parks of Forest Hill,” she says. “The area is always changing, and because I am very much into real estate and home design, I am always curious and excited to see what new things are happening.”
Looking back on her days competing at a very young age, Fichman is still in disbelief that she gets to compete among the best in the world in her hometown. “I was six years old when I first went to the Roger’s Cup,” she says. “I remember going around with my mom and dad, watching all these top players play, and it was so exciting. As I got older, I was always thinking, ‘I want to be on the court; I want to be playing here.’ And now it’s come full circle.”