Dec/18

21

Francoise Abanda, Venus Williams Look-A-Like, Is Trying to Follow Her Idol to Stardom

The Canadian, Françoise Abanda is 21, but it feels like she’s been around for a long time as she turned pro at 16. Currently ranked no. 220, the Montreal native of Cameroon descent, has been in a slide since October of 2017 when she reached her career-high ranking of 111. I caught up with the statuesque 5-foot-10 Venus Williams look-a-like at the Pro World Academy in Delray Beach, Florida as she prepares for the 2019 season and had this conversation with Abanda.

Q: Canadian tennis is at a very exciting time with Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Augur Aliassime both breaking into the scene in the past couple of years along with Milos Raonic. But the Canadian women are not in the same limelight with most notably, Genie Bouchard, having dipped. What’s the status of women’s tennis in Canada?

Abanda: I think the men are doing pretty well. For myself, I’m still working my way up. I did reach no. 110 last year (2017), and I almost broke into the top 100. I qualified at the French Open and won my first round and then lost to (Caroline) Wozniaki. Then at Wimbledon, back to back, I qualified and won my first round and almost made it to the third round. I lost to (Jelena) Ostapenko. I should have won. She was playing great. She had just won the French Open.

I was so close to the top 100, but I played the wrong tournaments so I’m just trying to get myself back to that ranking and hopefully higher.

Q: Do you train in Florida or in Montreal?

Abanda: I’m based in Montreal at the National Tennis Center in Canada so I’m here to prepare for next year. The conditions in Montreal are not ideal right now. I have the opportunity to train here with Leylah (Annie Fernandez), the lefty, young upcoming player.

Q: So you have to qualify at the Australian Open?

Abanda: I am in the Australian Open Qualifying Tournament, but I decided to stay here. I’ve tried to qualify for the last few years and the Australian Open is the only slam I’ve never qualified at, but I just decided to change it up. I’m going to play Newport Beach and the Midland Challenger.

Q: You must’ve been told that you look like Venus Williams, the young Venus Williams. Have you been told that a lot?

Abanda: Yes, I’ve been told that a lot.

Q: Have you ever played Venus Williams?

Abanda: I played her in Quebec City right after the US Open in 2017. Venus played it that year and I drew her first round and I lost 6-3, 7-5. I was 17. It was a really memorable match. I was glad I was able to play with them before they retired. I grew up admiring both Venus and Serena a lot.

Q: What is it about Venus’s game that you’ve tried to apply to your game?

Abanda: We both hit the ball pretty flat. I wish I was top-10 like Venus. I grew up playing indoors on hard courts. I don’t have a clay court game. I should’ve come earlier to Florida to train like Vasek (Pospisil) and (Peter) Polansky to train because you want to train in the conditions you’re in when you play most tournaments, outdoors, windy, sunny. So being in Canada, for sure, is not ideal.

Q: Who’s your coach?

Abanda: I don’t have a coach at the moment which is difficult, for sure. In 2017, the Federation provided me with a coach, but I’d like a full-time coach because I’m still so young and trying to improve aspects of my game.

Q: What are you working on?

Abanda: My serve, second serve is important so you don’t get attacked too much. I’m working on my overall fitness because it’s so important to have good endurance and be able to cover the court well. My backhand is very solid, but my forehand is too flat in my opinion. There’s a lot of things I can still improve on.

Q: How much support do you get from the Canadian Federation?

Abanda: Actually, a lot. As a junior, they cover all your expenses and provide a coach. You’re able to play mind-free and have everything covered. I know the France Federation does it, Australia, only a few other countries. When you turn 19, they don’t cover your expenses anymore, but they still provide a coach for you. I’m kind of in that space right now where I’m trying to find out if they’ll provide a coach for me this year.

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4 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 22, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Nice interview with a player I knew minimal about. It’s interesting to learn of the plight of these young strivers who are on the fringe of stardom and just a couple of good weeks away from emerging as contenders. So close but so far, just keep refining and working and believing. We will all be hoping for the best for Francois. I remember there was a boxer from Cameroon who fought for a world light heavyweight title in the 80s named Louis Pergaud.

  • Hartt · December 22, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I have followed Abanda’s career for a few years, and have mixed feelings. On the plus side, she is talented, and has had some key wins for Canada’s Fed Cup team.

    On the minus side, she does seem to make excuses and in Sept. said that Sylvain Bruneau made her continue playing a match when she was injured. Bruneau was shocked by that charge and he and the physio agreed that was not what happened.

    When she briefly became the Canadian No. 1 female player she claimed she did not get the same recognition as Bouchard because she is black. Somehow I think it was far more likely that the difference in attention had more to do with Genie’s past results and her high profile. Francoise kind of backed into the number 1 spot, unlike Denis who had to defeat Milos on the men’s side.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 22, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for insight on Abanda. She appears to have under-achieved up to now albeit almost beating Ostapenko at the Big W after she’d just won Roland Garros would’ve been big. It seems Canadian federation is unsure how much it wants to support Banda now. The fact that she’s dropped from 110 to 220 between ages 20-22 is not a good sign. It’s going to be challenging for her to rebound now w/out a coach and probably cash-tight as she’s skipping Aussie o Qualis.

  • Hartt · December 22, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    I think Tennis Canada is keen on Andreescu and Marino now. Bianca did quite well as a junior and is a strong competitor. She has been hampered by injuries (and to be fair, so has Francoise). Rebecca is in the top 200 after starting the season with no ranking at all.

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