The USTA Training Center headquarters at Boca Raton, Florida, isn’t just a locale exclusively reserved for American players.
For two weeks during the December offseason, the USTA’s facility plays host to the Canadian Fed Cup team. It’s the fourth consecutive year that the Canadians have let opportunity knock south of the border where sunshine, warm weather and plenty of tennis courts are substituted for freezing temperatures and indoor training at home.
Along for this year’s warm weather workout with Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau are Alexandra Wozniak, Eugenie Bouchard, Sharon Fichman, Stephanie Dubois, Gabriela Dabrowski and Carole Zhao. There’s also a full compliment of Tennis Canada coaches and trainers.
If you’re looking for a place where many of the pro players are preparing for the 2014 season then Boca Raton would be a choice spot to head. Among the other players on the USTA campus practicing were the past two days Ryan Harrison, Dennis Kudla, and Varvara Lepchenko, Samantha Crawford and Lauren Davis.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved in coming to Boca Raton as the players can practice hard and with a variety of opponents.
“We’re here from December 9th to the 20th and we’re doing a lot of planning with the USTA to scheduling matches,” Bruneau said.
“For some of the girls, if we didn’t have this training camp in Florida they’d be spending this time in November and December playing indoors in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver and then they go to Australia and it’s totally different conditions. So here they can get the right conditions, the sun, and the humidity outside, in a competitive environment. Those are the advantages.”
Currently ranked No. 116, the 23-year-old Fichman came to Boca Raton with the team and her personal coach, Larry Jarovich, as well.
It’s always great to get some matches in a more similar environment to what I’m going to compete in,” said Fichman, who practiced with American Maria Sanchez on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a lot of players down here and you can get back into the swing of things.”
For 19-year-old Bouchard, involvement in the Fed Cup training camp was an easy fit as she now works with American Nick Saviano as her coach and he works out of the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, FL, which was the site of last week’s Orange Bowl Championships.
On Monday, Bouchard spent a few hours practicing and playing a match against American Shelby Rogers under the watchful eye of Bruneau and her mother, Julie.
At 16 years old, Abanda is the youngest player who came to Florida with the Canadian Fed Cup team.
“This is great and it’s my second time doing this camp because I did it last year too,” Abanda said. “It’s great to have all the coaches here and we get to practice, play matches, and keep improving our game. I’m getting to play against different styles of game, like I’ll play against lefties or the USTA girls.”
The training trip is also designed to help foster Fed Cup team camaraderie. In Fed Cup by BNP Paribas action, Canada will host Serbia in the first round, February 7-9, 2014.
“The last time we were all together was for a tie last April which was eight months ago,” Bruneau said. “So this is great to get a little bit of bonding going, which is a plus as well. Serbia is a very tough team, but we’re ready for them even though they can be tough to handle.”
Fichman, for one, enjoys the bonding experience opportunity.
“We all get along so it’s nice for us to see each other and spend time together when we can,” Fichman said. “We’re excited to be playing Serbia and to have this rematch because we played them two years ago. And we’re more excited to be playing them in Canada so I’m definitely amped for that.”
And as far as Wozniak is concerned, it’s never too early for the players to get into the Fed Cup frame of mind.
“It’s nice to get together here with the rest of the team to get our team spirit going,” Wozniak said. “I’ve always enjoyed representing Canada in Fed Cup.
But Wozniak did reveal that it would be silly to assume that the Canadian Fed Cup team's Boca Raton visit is only about tennis.
“As girls, we like hang out and do some shopping,” Wozniak said. “We’ve gone to the mall and we’ve been doing some fun Christmas shopping.”