Tennis Canada is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year as stewards of the game in this country. Over the last several weeks, we have been honouring Canada’s vast history in tennis and remembering many of the people and moments that have played a role in creating the fabric of Canadian tennis. This is the final chapter of a five-part series.
We’ve spent the last four weeks going through everything Tennis Canada has done to get to where it is today; the people that made a difference, the importance of the flagship Canadian Open events, the biggest on-court moments from our heroes, and the grassroots and recreational side of the sport. The question now is, where do we go from here? The final chapter in this TC125 retrospective focuses on just that – the future of tennis in Canada.
Every organization has guiding principles that shape all of the decisions it makes and the direction it is headed. They are, and should be, at the heart of what everyone involved is working towards. Shaping the future has everything to do with how Tennis Canada lives by these principles.
As was outlined in chapter four, “Tennis in Canada”, there are many benefits to playing the sport at all levels. Moving forward, Tennis Canada wants to ensure that Canadians understand the positive role that tennis can play in the lives of children and adults alike. Tennis is a sport for life. It can be picked up by anyone, at any skill level, at any age. And, it is accessible. Tennis can be played in clubs, public courts or in one’s very own driveway or basement with portable equipment. Tennis can be whatever you choose to make it.
The goal for the future is to create a tennis culture in Canada. This requires more people to play the sport and have an interest in the sport – both are key results areas that Tennis Canada has targeted in strategic plans moving forward. If success is achieved here, tennis will become a Top 5 sport in the country both for participation and interest, and it will be the sport of choice for parents and their kids.
Growing the game is why Tennis Canada exists. It is why the organization’s employees come to work every day and it is where all of the resources get allocated. Grow the sport. But, how do we do this?
First is to make the sport readily available. Building and supporting more indoor, year-round, affordable facilities is a mandate that will continue to be a priority moving forward. More courts = more players.
Increasing the number of competitive events is another important element to achieving the mission. The more opportunities for players to hit the court, hone their skills and have fun, the more people the sport will attract and, more importantly, retain.
Raising the profile of tennis is also integral to growing its popularity. Rogers Cup presented by National Bank is the one week of the year when not only the eyes of the country, but the eyes of the world, are on Canada and Canadian tennis. Increasing the prestige of Rogers Cup to ensure it remains world-class and one of the best tournaments on the international calendar will help attract more people to the sport across the country.
Inherent in raising the profile of the sport through events is to ensure effective communication. Our aim is to not just be the facilitators of tennis in Canada or the developers of tennis in Canada, but also the voice of tennis in Canada.
Lastly, there is a common saying that success breeds success. Developing champions, heroes and role models for tennis in Canada will go the furthest in ensuring the growth of the sport. With success already seen from Milos Raonic, Genie Bouchard, Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor, the next generation of players are well on their way to following in their footsteps.
With the recent results and success of players like Milos, Genie and Vasek, the perception of Canadian tennis has changed globally. People are looking at Canada and wondering what is the nation is doing right. The structure in place is being emulated in other emerging tennis countries, the events are being attended by a higher calibre group of players and the foundation is deemed to be solid and strengthening even further.
A big reason for this is the National Training Centre and junior national training programs that were put into place in 2007. The full-time NTC in Montreal and the three U14 programs in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto are producing talent. That talent is being inspired by the older generation, as they are seeing firsthand it is possible to achieve a high level success if you put in the work. The excitement level for this next generation is high.
Right now, at the end of the 2015 season, Canada has six juniors ranked inside the Top 40 in the world, including two in the Top 10. We also boast the two highest-ranked 15-year-olds in the world in Felix Auger-Aliassime and Bianca Andreescu. The list of their accomplishments over the past few years are too numerous to go into depth here but some highlights include:
So, the hopes for this new wave are high. They are young, driven and have the talent to do big things. This is in addition to the more recently graduated group which includes Brayden Schnur, Francoise Abanda, Filip Peliwo and Carol Zhao who all still have much more to achieve in their young careers.
These players, combined with the continued success of the current pros and coupled with efforts to improve grassroots programming and provide more opportunity for play, all come together to illustrate that tennis in Canada is very much headed in the right direction. The future is indeed very bright.
To view more Canadian tennis moments, visit our 125th anniversary microsite and celebrate with us!
To read the other chapters in the series, click here.