Françoise Abanda; Montreal;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m a professional tennis player. I travel the world and play tennis.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to a study-with-sport school, École Georges-Vanier in Laval, Montreal. Most of the National Training Centre players attended school there. You’re in class until noon, and then in the afternoon you practice your sport. That really helped me in my career, being able to both train and study during high school. And at the National Training Centre we also had a tutor that was assigned by Tennis Canada, so we could train and work with the tutor on and off.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
Honestly, I’ve never worked in a regular job, because you start tennis so young; I started at 7.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
When I was 12, I went to France and won Auray, one of the biggest under-12 tennis tournaments in the world. That was really the turning point for me; it opened my eyes to the fact that I really had a shot in the sport, even though I was young. I never looked back after that.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
Winning a Fed Cup match for Canada was really huge. You don’t only play for yourself, you’re playing for the whole country. In 2014, Canada played Romania. I was 17, and I won an important match, and that was really big for me.
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
In 2012, I injured my shoulder. I was out for a year and a half, almost two years. It really affected my junior career. At that time, I had just made a semi-final of Wimbledon, a semi-final of the French Open—I was on a roll. And then I got injured. It really slowed me down, but it did give me the opportunity to do other stuff, and have more of a “regular” life (until I could go back to training).
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Persevere. Really believe in yourself, and persevere. I feel like a lot of people start projects, but they don’t go all the way. What really helped me was that I always stuck to tennis, no matter what—good times and bad. I think it’s important to go all the way with a project, to truly believe in it.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Luckily, I’ve always been surrounded by a really good team, from a very young age. So I’ve never really gotten any bad advice.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
Actually, I believe tennis is one of the best sports for girls. You get to wear cute outfits, it’s well-paid, you get to travel the world, and it’s a popular female sport that lots of people watch. Plus, it keeps you in great shape. There are so many advantages to playing women’s tennis. It’s a really good job.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I’d say it’s well-paid. I’ve never done any job other than tennis. I wish I had something cooler to say, but I’m really blessed, and honoured, to have tennis in my life.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
A lot of people think you need to have experience to win, that you have to wait until you’ve matured. But I believe that if you really put your mind to it, you have the skill and the talent, and you put the work in, you can get results [no matter your age]. I’ve always been the youngest playing higher-level tournaments. I definitely feel that it’s possible to stand out, even when you’re young.