Canadians Frank Dancevic, Heidi el Tabakh both tournament winners this week

Eh Game
Canada's Frank Dancevic returns the ball to Belgium's ?Steve Darcis during the first singles ?match of the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal between Belgium and Canada, in Middelkerke, Belgium, on Friday July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Canada's Frank Dancevic returns the ball to Belgium's ?Steve Darcis during the first singles ?match of the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal between Belgium and Canada, in Middelkerke, Belgium, on Friday July 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Both have played in the biggest tournaments in the tennis world, the Grand Slams.

But for various reasons, both Frank Dancevic and Heidi el Tabakh have fallen in the rankings, and this week was a good stepping stone for both to get back to where they should be.

Dancevic, 30, of Niagara Falls, Ont., won his third consecutive event at the Futures level (entry-level for professional tennis players) Saturday at a $15,000 tournament held at the Aviva Centre in Toronto, home to the big Rogers Cup event for a week every August.

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He didn't drop a set in five matches, as the top seed, defeating No. 2 seed Sanam Singh of India 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

It's the third consecutive win at this level for Dancevic, who won on Har-Tru in a similar event at the Donalda Golf Club in Toronto last week, and at another tournament in Calgary the week before that. In the process, he's already close to breaking back into the top 200, after starting this series of tournaments ranked No. 277.

El Tabakh, an Egyptian-born Canadian who moved to Florida at a young age to pursue her tennis, has been beset by injuries most of her career. She missed six months, from last November to her return in May, with a back issue. Before that, she was on and off the circuit with a quad injury that she just couldn't get right.

El Tabakh, seen here during her first-round loss to Aleksandra Wozniak at the 2012 French Open, won a $25K tournament in California Sunday. THOMAS COEX/AFP/GettyImages
El Tabakh, seen here during her first-round loss to Aleksandra Wozniak at the 2012 French Open, won a $25K tournament in California Sunday. THOMAS COEX/AFP/GettyImages

A contemporary of Aleksandra Wozniak's – the two used to travel to tournaments with their mothers as juniors and often played doubles together when they first started out in the pros – the 28-year-old (she turns 29 this week) is currently ranked No. 421 after being in the top 150 in 2012.

El Tabakh won her first tournament since May, 2014 on Sunday after a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed Sherazad Reix of France at a $25,000 International Tennis Federation tournament in Redding, California.

The Canadian's best moment on the pro tour came in 2010 at the French Open when, after winning three qualifying matches, she played Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai on Court Philippe Chatrier.

At the 2010 French Open, el Tabakh took on France's Aravane Rezai in a first-round match on the big stadium court. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
At the 2010 French Open, el Tabakh took on France's Aravane Rezai in a first-round match on the big stadium court. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

El Tabakh also qualified for the French Open in 2012 (defeating current No. 36 Camila Giorgi of Italy in the final round), but had the unfortunate luck of drawing her old friend Wozniak in the first round. Wozniak won 7-5, 6-2.

Speaking of Wozniak, her comeback from shoulder surgery is off to a slow start, which isn't surprising. The 28-year-old won two matches in her first tournament back a month ago, a $25,000 event in Winnipeg.

She played in the qualifying of the Coupe Banque Nationale this past week in Quebec City, losing 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to No. 8 seed Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. Wozniak is playing qualifying again this week at a $75,000 tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico (where el Tabakh is in the main draw), and won her first match on Sunday.

Another familiar face, Marie-Eve Pelletier, also played in the qualifying of the Coupe Banque Nationale, losing 6-0, 6-1 in quick fashion to American Samantha Crawford. But don't expect the 33-year-old, who reached a career high of No. 106 in singles, back on the circuit.

A very pregnant Marie-Eve Pelletier cheers on Françoise Abanda at the Fed Cup in Montreal in April. After giving birth to Zoé May 17, Pelletier made a one-match comeback at the Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City last week. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
A very pregnant Marie-Eve Pelletier cheers on Françoise Abanda at the Fed Cup in Montreal in April. After giving birth to Zoé May 17, Pelletier made a one-match comeback at the Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City last week. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

The last time we saw Pelletier was back in April as she cheered on the Canadian team during Fed Cup along with her husband, former NHL goaltender Pascal Leclaire. As you can see, she was expecting a major bundle of joy, who arrived May 17. 

Pelletier had traveled to Quebec City with baby Zoé to help out her longtime friend and doubles partner Julie Coin of France – and no doubt to show off baby Zoé. There was a spot available in the qualifying, so Pelletier told Eh Game she was talked into playing, after a total of about four hours on a tennis court in the last 18 months. She said moving was, to say the least, still challenging. 

Pelletier donated her prize money to a charitable foundation and had her photo taken on court with her daughter so that, she joked, she could always say her little girl saw her play.

(As a side note, for those who might wonder why Pelletier could just come back and play a pro event, she never officially filed the retirement papers with the WTA Tour and so wasn't on the ITF's retired list. Typically, if you appear on that list – and are no longer subject to drug testing – you have to get back into the program for a minimum of three months before you're eligible to play. In Pelletier's case, there was no need, although it's interesting to point out that Pelletier told Eh Game the drug testers have not visited her even once since her last official match, which was at the Australian Open in January, 2013).

 

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