Filipina-Canadian tennis champ was recognized for a stellar season
By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez
Tennis Canada announced that Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) and Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal, QC) are the recipients of the 2023 Tennis Canada Excellence Awards for Player of the Year and Singles Player of the Year in the women’s and men’s categories, respectively.
This is Fernandez’s fourth straight Women’s Player of the Year and Women’s Singles Player of the Year awards.
The 21-year-old had a stellar season, making it to the finals of the French Open in doubles, winning the Hong Kong Open in China for her third-career WTA title, and putting on a dazzling display on the international stage at the Billie Jean King Cup en route to Canada’s first title at the tournament, Tennis Canada said in a statement.
In Seville, Fernandez also won all four of her singles matches, including a crucial win over Czechia’s No. 7 ranked Marketa Vondrouvosa in the semi-finals, and her one appearance in doubles.
The other Excellence Awards went to Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) and Vasek Pospisil (Vernon, BC)for Doubles Player of the Year, to Marina Stakusic (Toronto, ON) and Gabriel Diallo (Montreal, QC) for Most Improved Player of the Year, and to Nadia Lagaev (Vaughan, ON) and Keegan Rice (Regina, SK) for Junior Players of the Year. In wheelchair tennis, Rob Shaw (North Bay, ON) earned the Wheelchair Tennis Player of the Year award, while Natalia Lanucha (Pincourt, QC) claimed the Most Improved Player of the Year award.
“We would like to congratulate all of this year’s recipients of the Tennis Canada Excellence Awards,” said Gavin Ziv, CEO of Tennis Canada. “It was another incredible year for Canadian tennis, with historic milestones achieved across the board. Canada’s first-ever Billie Jean King Cup victory and first women’s Grand Slam doubles title were the main highlights, but that doesn’t take away from everyone else’s fantastic achievements on and off the court. From Rob winning a silver medal at the Parapan Am Games while serving as a flag bearer for Canada to Félix being recognized with the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his charitable efforts, it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch our country continue to make great strides in 2023,” read a statement of Tennis Canada in its website.
“What a wild ride it’s been! Massive thanks to the incredible souls who cast their votes and cheered me on every step of the way. Snagging Player of the Year and the BJK Finals Heart Award? Pinch me, I must be dreaming! Big love to my rockstar Team Canada, the powerhouse performance crew, my coach who’s basically my secret weapon, and of course, my fam for being the wind beneath my wings this year,” Fernandez said of the recognition in a Facebook post.
“This victory isn’t just mine—it’s a shoutout to every single one of you who played a part in this crazy journey. Here’s to more crushing it together!,” she added.
Nicknamed a giantkiller for slaying tennis giants in the US Open finals in 2021, the 5’4”-tall Fernandez attributed her success to the coaching of her father, Jorge, who is a former soccer player of Ecuadorian origin and the support of her mother Irene Exevea, who is a Canadian of Filipino origin. Irene’s mother is reportedly from Ilocos Norte in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, for the third straight year, Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime won the Men’s Player of the Year and Men’s Singles Player of the Year awards. The 23-year-old came back from a difficult start to the year to end his season with some very promising play. He successfully defended his title at the 2023 Swiss Indoors, defeating Holger Rune in straight sets in the semi-final for his first top-10 win of the season before beating Hubert Hurkacz in the final. Auger-Aliassime also participated in this year’s Laver Cup, helping Team World defeat Team Europe.