|©David Howells 2018

A new chapter was added to the story of the Canadian University Tennis Championships when Memorial University narrowly defeated Dalhousie to win the Atlantic University Tennis League (AUTL) in March, thereby qualifying to the national championships for the first time in the history of the tournament.

Josh Lehr, Memorial’s captain, was part of the mixed doubles duo that clinched the title. Playing alongside Samantha Vincent, the two dominated the deciding match to give Memorial its first AUTL title.  “It was pretty special for me, because this was my fifth year playing tennis at Memorial,” said Lehr. “I played four years before this and we’d come up short every year, so it was really special to finally win.”

Lehr, a native of St. John’s who just finished his second year of medical school, hopes qualifying to the national championships will help Memorial’s tennis program grow. “Hopefully we’ll get a few strong players coming to Memorial. That would be great as some of us older players phase out. Hopefully it sparks an interest in a few more people who happen to hear about us and want to be involved in tennis.”

Lehr began his tennis career hitting with his dad on public courts before deciding on a whim to enter a city tournament around the age of ten. He took home the title and began to think tennis was something he could do well. He enrolled in lessons and began playing competitively in the Atlantic region before qualifying to Under 12 Nationals just a couple of years after beginning lessons.

A decade later, Lehr is again preparing for the national championships but this time with his team. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to play competitive singles and doubles matches against high quality players at the championships in Montreal and relishes the chance to play alongside the stars of the ATP as they contest the Rogers Cup. “It’s exciting to be at an iconic venue in Canada playing tennis,” Lehr said, adding he is a fan of Roger Federer and Andre Agassi.

Photo : Memorial University of Newfoundland Tennis Club (Facebook Page)

Lehr and his teammates are excited to compete against bigger universities and know their opposition is strong. They are approaching the tournament with a positive but realistic attitude. “We hope to play some good matches, maybe get a few singles or doubles wins, try to improve on previous results from the teams from Atlantic Canada. But we’ll just go play hard and have fun, just enjoy the experience.”

In addition to representing Memorial on the national stage, Lehr also recognizes the chance to draw attention to the Atlantic region as a whole. “Hopefully over the years the teams from Atlantic Canada will get stronger and stronger and more tennis players will go to universities within Atlantic Canada,” he says.

Regardless of the result at the national championships, the small but mighty team from Memorial has already made history. Come and cheer on the men’s team at Stade IGA in Montreal, with the semi-final match against Western University taking place on August 10 and the finals and third-place match held the following day. Contact sronan@tenniscanada.com for ticket information.