Leylah Fernandez hugs a person wearing a red jacket with Cnada written on it after a Billie Jean King Cup match

Photo : Srdjan Stevanovic/Starsport.rs

Without a doubt, 2021 was another remarkable year for Canadian tennis.

Countless examples illustrate the exceptional progress our nation made on the international stage, like Leylah Annie Fernandez (finalist) and Félix Auger-Aliassime (semi-finalist) having tremendous success at the US Open, Denis Shapovalov reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, Gabriela Dabrowski having another brilliant year in women’s doubles and Sharon Fichman returning from retirement a few years ago to make the year-end WTA Finals in doubles in 2021.

Those performances by Canadian athletes are certainly the result of all the hard work they’ve invested throughout their careers, with the help and sacrifices made by their parents and coaches, and they should all be very proud! But what people don’t always realize is that the successes also stem from the ongoing efforts and investments made by Tennis Canada and our important delivery partners, such as the Provincial Tennis Associations and Tennis Development Centres, for several years.

Everything Tennis Canada has done in an effort to realize its vision of becoming a world-leading tennis nation go far beyond high performance. It goes without saying that the creation of a high performance development program in Canada back in 2006 with the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers in Montreal supported by regional junior programs in Toronto and Vancouver to introduce, develop and retain promising young Canadians from across the country to the sport, were fundamental to our success. So was the work done by Tennis Development Centres (TDCs), which receive grant funding from Tennis Canada and by Provincial Tennis Associations in building terrific a competitive structure for promising young players to continue to develop their game. Because before Canadian athletes raise trophies on the professional tours, they’re children who want to have fun with their friends on the court, who then become junior players who dream big when they are competing.

Anabelle Xu puts her hands over her mouth and looks to her left
Photo : Tennis Canada

That’s why, with the help and support from our delivery partners across the country, Tennis Canada is constantly working to make tennis increasingly accessible and inclusive so children have access to a right-sized racquet and court, year-round tennis facilities, certified coaches who are safe sport trained, competitions, development camps and more. And we focus our efforts to ensure everyone—persons of all genders, ages, ethnicities, and abilities—can thrive through tennis. Our initiatives include an Equality Strategy to bring and retain more women and girls of all levels to the game, and the implementation of community programs in neighborhoods and rural areas from coast to coast to coast.

All of our actions—from high performance to competitive structure, to coach development and education, to wheelchair tennis and tennis for women, girls and youth—have one thing in common: you.

Without the generous support of everyone who gave to our fundraising initiatives through the years, today’s wins may not have been possible. Without the contributions made yesterday, recreational and competitive players across Canada would not have so many occasions to reap all the benefits of our sport today. And that’s one of the most fascinating paradoxes of tennis: it’s an individual sport in which opportunities to play at a high level are often made possible by a collective commitment. At Tennis Canada, we’ve known that for a long time, and we’re very grateful to be able to count on so many loyal donors who, through their participation year after year, help shape Canadian tennis.

In 2021, that support is more vital than ever.

As you already know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused tremendous upheaval in tennis for all players, provincial tennis associations, tennis development centres and competition at all levels. In 2020, owing to the impacts of the health crisis, Tennis Canada was forced to cut back its investments in tennis development by 70%, impacting not just what we do, but also what our delivery partners do. This year, despite the partial resumption of our activities, our financial commitments were only 40% of what we normally pledge.

This critical situation has had a negative impact on tennis lovers across the country, regardless of their level. Development opportunities tied to professional and junior competition were lost for the best part of 18 months, while recreational players were sidelined for weeks and months before they were able to return to the courts and reap the health and fun-related benefits offered by our tremendous sport.

Today, we face an enormous challenge to help (re)build our tennis nation and ensure entire generations of Canadians can access the resources they need to pursue their passion for the sport and realize their tennis dreams.

On behalf of all of us at Tennis Canada and our delivery partners, I would like to invite you to join us in the cause by donating to our new #WhereImRaised campaign.

Group of kids holding tennis rackets looking at a coach and smiling
Photo : Tennis Canada

Aiming to turn the spotlight on the contributions communities make to the development of our young players and how it can impact their potential future success on the biggest stages, the campaign is a way for you to give directly to support the numerous programs led by Tennis Canada that span from academies to clubs and even to park courts, raising the next generation of Canadian tennis players.

The success, triumph and advancement of Canadian tennis are all tangible proof that support can bring about a cascade of positive effects for our sport. I am convinced we will be able to continue to build on this momentum in the future and collectively make Canada a global force in tennis, a game we love to play and to watch.

The work to build for tomorrow starts here and now, with all of us!

Michael Downey

President and Chief Executive Officer of Tennis Canada