Bedford, Que., isn't known as a tennis mecca just yet, but the province's next star player may have ties to the town thanks to Aleksandra Wozniak's newest project.
Since June, aspiring tennis players have been travelling to Bedford, about 80 kilometres southeast of Montreal, to learn from the 2012 Canadian Olympian at her new tennis academy.
"After my career, I always wanted to stay in tennis and in the tennis world and I thought [this academy] is a great way for me to share my passion with everyone," Wozniak said.
Following her retirement from the sport as a player in December 2018, Wozniak didn't waste any time getting to work on the second act of her tennis career.
The former world No. 21 completed her coaching certification in March, and while she wasn't counting on opening her academy until 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic presented her an opportunity to speed up her plans.
"I really got to focus on moving the project forward during the COVID [lockdown]," she said.
Wozniak rightly guessed that tennis would be one of the first sports to reopen, and she says since June there has been a rush in demand for her services.
She cut the ribbon to officially open the academy on Aug. 15, and says she has approximately 200 students enrolled in the academy at all levels.
Unlike traditional tennis academies which often exclusively focus on young players hoping to play pro, she's decided to cast a wider net and open up her school to players of all ages and skill levels.
"I train everyone like I used to train on the tour, so we offer everything here," Wozniak said.
Eric Caron and his family drove six hours from Rimouski so his son Olivier could train with Wozniak for two hours.
"Olivier is just so happy and excited to be here. He was on cloud nine when we were about to arrive. It's incredible. What a great experience," Caron said.
The academy's early success is also a win for the town of Bedford. The courts Wozniak uses for her school were virtually abandoned before she opened up, and her business partnered with a few local hotels that have seen their bookings increase in order to accommodate students and families from out of town.
For now, most of the students who come to learn in Bedford are from Quebec and Ontario, but Wozniak says when the border with the U.S. reopens she expects many Americans will make the trip as well.
Only months into the project, the academy is providing Wozniak with a much-needed competitive outlet following her own playing career.
"When I see people progress after one lesson, you know, I'm really happy that I see them. It's like I'm challenging myself. This role is a good challenge for me," Wozniak said.