Fichman now hopes to compete for Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
A few curious fans watched the female tennis player with the Canada T-shirt warming up an hour prior to her doubles match on Court 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. She seems confident and clear in what she needs from Fritz, her strong male hitting partner. Another guy with a white sleeveless shirt, shorts and colorful shoes is holding a tennis racket and retrieving balls. Though no one knows who she is, the player is no stranger to the US Open.
Canadian-Israeli Sharon Fichman, 28, played in Flushing Meadows as a junior in 2006, where she reached the doubles finals with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Fichman was ranked No. 5 in the junior circuit that year. She played in the US Open qualifying tournament each year from 2009-2012, and she lost in the first round of the main draw in both 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she reached career-high rankings in singles (No. 77) and doubles (No. 48).
Following a long period of absence from the tennis tour, Fichman was back in New York this year to compete in the US Open doubles tournament. She and fellow Canadian Bianca Andreescu (the eventual singles champion) lost in the first round to Americans Taylor Townsend and Whitney Osuigwe.
Fichman’s break from tennis and her dramatic return is a complex, moving love story which involves overcoming adversity and facing life’s challenges and opportunities with a partner.
Fichman spoke to The Jerusalem Post and explained that in March 2014 “there were a lot of things happening in my life… there was a big change in my coaching dynamic.”
Fichman described moving to Vancouver from Toronto to be with her coach, who relocated there for professional and personal reasons. The relationship was unhealthy and unraveling.
“In hindsight, I probably should have changed the situation at the time, but unfortunately I didn’t. It got to the point where it led to overtraining, overplaying, poor scheduling, mental fatigue, injuries, surgeries.”
Fichman experienced multiple injuries and surgeries to her Achilles, ankle and knee.
“Looking back, I shouldn’t have been competing. It got to the point that I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I was in pain, mentally and physically. Every time I would come back, I would get injured again. I needed a break. I fell out of love [with tennis].”
Fichman decided to take a break from tennis in May 2016. She stayed in Vancouver, began building a life outside of tennis and entered into a serious relationship, which brought her back home to Toronto.
Once in Toronto, the relationship ended and Fichman was “focused on getting life together and finding a new passion outside of tennis.”
But ultimately she “fell back in love with tennis” and started taking coaching education courses, serving as a high performance coach and doing tennis commentary on television.
Fichman also fell back in love with a person.
“When I moved back to Toronto, Dylan [Moscovitch] got back in touch with me.
Fichman proceeded to describe the moving story of her relationship with Dylan Moscovitch, the accomplished 35-year-old retired pairs skater.
Moscovitch, who like Fichman is Jewish, competed with partner Kirsten Moore-Towers and was the 2013 Four Continents silver medalist, 2014 Olympic team event silver medalist, and 2011 Canadian national champion. He then competed with Liubov Ilyushechkina from 2014 to 2018 and together they won numerous prizes, including as the 2017 Four Continents bronze medalists, two-time bronze medalists on the Grand Prix series, and three-time Canadian national medalists (silver in 2015 and 2017, bronze in 2016).
Fichman’s relationship with Moscovitch started slowly.
“We met when I was 12, through his tennis-playing brother,’ she recounted. “We weren’t in each other’s lives… we sort of knew about each other and each other’s careers – we were both Jewish Canadian athletes.”
Fichman was born in Toronto to Jewish parents who moved from their native Romania to Israel before settling in Canada. She competed in the 17th Maccabiah Games in Israel at age 14 and won the gold medal in women’s singles. Moscovitch also had visited Israel on a Birthright program.
“We had each other on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Eventually he reached out, and asked me out a couple of times. Eventually I said yes. When we reconnected, the rest is history!”
They started dating in August 2017 and “hit the ground sprinting.”
Moscovitch’s life would soon change in unexpected ways.
In December 2017, he called Fichman just before she boarded a plane for a three-hour flight to Toronto. He was relaxing on a stretching mat after a gym workout.
“While we were on the phone together, a 200-pound mirrored door next to him unhinged and fell on him. He was knocked unconscious and suffered multiple facial lacerations, a cracked bone in his hand, multiple stitches in his right hand and was concussed for two months. What was horrible, is that I heard everything on the other end of the phone, not knowing whether or not he was dead or alive throughout the flight.”
Fichman described her flight as “the scariest three hours of my life.”
“Usually, Dylan closes his eyes while relaxing after his workouts. This time, since he was speaking on the phone, his eyes were open. Speaking with me saved him some serious head damage. If his eyes were closed, he wouldn’t have been able to react with his hand to help stop the majority of the impact.”
As a result of his injuries, Moscovitch retired from skating and was unable to participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
“He missed the opportunity to go to two Olympics, which was his goal – to go to two Olympics and medal.”
That missed opportunity is intimately connected to Fichman’s return to tennis.
“Dylan’s injury inspired me to come back because I wanted him to fulfill that dream. I decided after I heard [fellow Canadian tennis player] Gaby [Dabrowski]in a press conference mention something about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It inspired me to come back for Dylan.”
Fichman now hopes to compete for Canada at the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
“I had a bad break-up with tennis,” she noted. “I didn’t finish the sport in a way that left me feeling like I had a lot of love for it. This has given me an opportunity to play again and play on my terms and learn to love it.”
Fichman returned to tennis in doubles at the 2018 ITF event in Indian Harbour Beach and reached the quarterfinals with partner Jamie Loeb.
At this year’s US Open, when her practice session draws to a close, she sits in her chair next to hitting partner and the other guy who had been assisting on court. That man is Dylan Moscovitch.
Fichman opens up her tennis bag and takes out a hard case. She retrieves a shining diamond ring which she slips on to her finger. Fichman and Moscovitch got engaged in November 2018, and are planning their wedding in February 2021.
Moscovitch spends a great deal of time with Fichman on and off court, where he offers support and a great deal of insight and wisdom.
“Any athlete who competes later in life and takes a break has a certain perspective, which is a huge asset” said Moscovitch. “This lens helps her a lot on court, and to understand balance in life. I try to help with this philosophy.”
While the US Open may have ended early for Fichman, she and Moscovitch have Tokyo and married life to look forward to and their future is bright as the sun.