Tennis Canada lost a longtime member of its family on Thursday with the passing of Steve Stevens at the age of 99. Steve was an immensely valuable part of the organization for over three decades and his loss will leave an indelible hole in the entire Canadian tennis community.
Steve revolutionized seniors tennis in Canada. His passion for the sport and growing the game was unmatched. He led the growth of seniors tennis almost from ground zero, expanding Canada’s representation at the world championships from one team to 20. Through his time, Canada has been home to some of the best seniors players in the world and now regularly achieves success at the world championships every year. Canada’s annual outdoor national tournament was renamed in his honour in 2010 to the Steve Stevens Senior National Tennis Championships.
Born in England in 1916, Steve first became involved in tennis at a young age. He organized a church community club and played socially in Germany and Switzerland. He moved to Brazil in 1951 and after some years without tennis, he took up the sport again in Sao Paulo in 1960 and was an integral part of the tennis community there, including as a delegate of the Sao Paulo Tennis Federation.
After moving to Toronto in October 1967, he shortly thereafter began his involvement with Canadian tennis. He first became a representative for seniors tennis on the OTA tournament committee in 1970 and his contribution only grew from there. He was the general manager of the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club from 1969 to 1982, OTA president from 1982 to 1985 and has been part of Tennis Canada since the early 90s.
His annual birthday celebrations in the office were not-to-be-missed as Steve would regale the staff with vibrant speeches. He loved bringing people together and organizing parties, and was known for his speeches and ability to tell a tale. He would regularly hold a crowd at every seniors event.
Up until recently, Steve was still acting in his role of seniors tennis coordinator. He celebrated his 99th birthday in November at the Toronto Lawn.
His fiery spark and kind spirit will always be remembered. He will be truly and greatly missed by all in the Canadian tennis community, and especially in the seniors community where he was synonymous with the sport. He leaves behind a huge legacy, and it is thanks to his vast dedication, passion, and guidance over the years that seniors tennis in Canada is in such a positive place today.
Steve passed away at Sunnybrook in Toronto, just weeks after suffering a stroke. A celebration of his life will be held in the coming weeks. Details will be announced once confirmed.
“Steve played a significant role to help grow and develop tennis in Canada. We are very grateful for all of his meaningful contributions over the years, especially the connections and legacy he leaves with seniors tennis. Tennis Canada was one of his homes, and his feisty spirt, honesty, kind heart, and sense of humour will truly be missed by our staff and many in the Canadian tennis community and tennis family.” – Hatem McDadi, senior vice-president, tennis development, Tennis Canada
“It’s the end of an era. I’m going to miss our constant back-and-forth bantering and heated discussions. But no matter what, we always came to an agreement in the end. He was not only my partner at work but my friend and mentor. I learned so much from him and I am going to do my best to carry on his legacy. We’re going to miss him.” – Irwin Tobias, chair of seniors tennis committee, Tennis Canada