November 29, 2013

At the Steve Stevens Senior National Tennis Championships each year, the draws are often dominated by the three provinces with the highest number of participants – British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. But with a new No. 1-ranked player and a couple of new indoor facilities within its borders, Nova Scotia is becoming more of a contender in the Canadian seniors tennis world.

Andrew Oxner of Halifax, who played in his first national seniors event at the eastern indoors in Montreal this past spring, has catapulted to the top ranking in the men’s over-40 age group. He ended up winning the indoor tournament as well as the outdoor nationals a few months later in Vancouver to cement his status as Canada’s best in his age group.

“I went to nationals with not much of an expectation to be honest,” Oxner said. “I just thought there’s a good chance I’ll be in all my matches – I shouldn’t be blown out – but I didn’t go up there expecting to win. I just wanted to see where I stacked up against some of these guys. I had a really good week, played well and won. The first experience was a great one so it’s spurred me on to keep going.”

In the singles events this past summer in Vancouver, 14 players from Nova Scotia participated. Several of those players have featured regularly at the tournaments for a long time, and Oxner hopes that some more new players like himself can join the team from Nova Scotia in the future.  

“I think that core group of players has always sort of been there for the last number of years,” Oxner said. “So that’s a good base and now there’s some younger guys like myself that are coming up and playing, and hopefully now some of the folks that are my age group can see you can have success. Hopefully I can encourage some of the guys my age to come play these tournaments with us and we grow it further.”

One way to grow the game is with the availability of playing tennis year-round, which is becoming easier in Nova Scotia with the addition of two new indoor clubs. The Daniel Nestor Tennis Centre opened in Bedford, just outside of Halifax, earlier this year with the Cougar Dome in Truro set to commence play in December.

“These indoor facilities are allowing some of these guys who used to just play in the summertime to pursue it year-round,” Oxner said. “So hopefully down the road we’ll see some of the benefits of that and we’ll see more players at nationals in future years because they are playing tennis right through the winter.”

Michelle Karis is another former national champion from Nova Scotia. The Halifax resident, who won the eastern indoors in singles this year and the 2012 national doubles title in the over-50 age category, agrees that seniors tennis has more potential in the province.  

“I think in seniors tennis we’re realizing that we are just as competitive as the rest of Canada which is really nice,” Karis said. “And in general it looks like tennis is doing really well in Nova Scotia. We just got a new indoor facility which is fantastic, and you can just see how tennis can grow just with having these new facilities. And I really like the direction Tennis Canada is going with getting kids started earlier. As you can see with me, it’s a lifetime sport for sure. I started when I was 13 and here I am at 55 now and enjoying it even more now than I did when I was a child.”

Karis began competing in national events five years ago and has since progressed to representing Canada at the world championships. For her, it was just a matter of trying it for the first time.

“My husband and I kept getting better and having fun with tennis so we thought why don’t we just give nationals a try – it was in Montreal at the time – so why don’t we go there and see how we do and if we’re competitive and if we like it,” she said. “And we absolutely loved it. We played tennis during the day and then went out for nice meals at night. It was perfect for us for vacation, and we’ve gone every year since.”

Both Oxner and Karis say they’re proud to represent their province, and Oxner also noted that at his matches in Vancouver this year a handful of Nova Scotians were there to support and cheer him on – evidence of a close-knit community. With the province also getting set to host a brand-new seniors tennis tournament next year at the Daniel Nestor Tennis Centre, seniors tennis – and the sport overall – is definitely moving in the right direction in Nova Scotia.

>> LOG IN or REGISTER to post comments