Photo: Peter Power / Tennis Canada
- YouGov Canada study finds nearly 5 million Canadians played tennis in 2023
- National Growth and Development Strategy set to be rolled out in 2024
Tennis in Canada is set to soar after the sport saw a spike in interest and participation rates in 2023, according to the results of a YouGov Canada study commissioned by Tennis Canada. Nearly 5 million Canadians picked up a racquet in the past year with participation among youth (6–17 year-olds) seeing notable growth (+11% over 2022).
Marking the first time it has experienced a significant rise in both categories since COVID-19, the sport is on course to reach pre-pandemic levels in the near future. In 2023, tennis ranked as the fourth* most popular sport in terms of interest and fifth** for participation in Canada. Versus 2022, 10% more young Canadians claimed to have an interest in tennis this past year.
The study suggests tennis shows no signs of double faulting in 2024. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians under-12 played tennis last year and even more indicated they are likely to continue in the next 12 months. Thirty-one per cent of Canadians aged 12+ say they definitely or probably will play tennis in the next year – the highest rate since 2019 – while 30% of Canadians are prepared to enroll their children in programming next year, up from 23% in 2022.
QUICK READ: 2023 PARTICIPATION STUDY HIGHLIGHTS
“The growth we have seen in interest and participation in 2023 is highly encouraging, especially among the younger demographic and following several very challenging years for not only tennis but all sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gavin Ziv, Chief Executive Officer, Tennis Canada. “It cannot be overstated how much of an influence our top Canadians can have at the grassroots level, inspiring the next generation to pick up a racquet. It must be said, however, that this would all be for nothing without the continued and tireless work of our talented team and Provincial and Territorial Association partners to ensure interest is converted into participation through accessible programming. With plenty in store over the next 12 months, our aim is to build on these results in 2024.”
The positive results come on the back of unprecedented achievements for Canadian tennis on the world stage. The country’s maiden Billie Jean King Cup title in Seville and the Davis Cup Champions Tour presented by Sobeys, which saw the iconic trophy travel the length and breadth of the country following Team Canada’s victory in November 2022, were major milestones, as were Canadian victories at the Grand Slam and Tour levels, headlined by Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe’s US Open women’s doubles title, the first in Canada’s history.
Meanwhile, the National Bank Open presented by Rogers (NBO) broke attendance records in Toronto (175,000+) and Montreal (219,000+) as fans flocked to Canada’s premier, world-class tennis tournaments to watch the globe’s best players compete in-person at Sobeys Stadium and IGA Stadium respectively.
“As players, it’s a given that our goal is to win matches and titles,” said 2019 US Open and NBO champion, Bianca Andreescu. “But it goes way beyond that. If we can inspire Canadians to become interested in and take up tennis, we’re helping grow the sport. As someone as passionate about the game as I am, that is very rewarding, and it makes me so happy to see more people are playing in Canada.”
Capacity building and right-sized programming hold the key
Together with success at the high-performance level, Tennis Canada has set about increasing accessibility across the country. Via the Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program presented by Rogers, five domed tennis facilities have been erected since the start of 2022 with a total of 26 courts being covered to provide year-round access to 4.1 million Canadians. The National Bank Play Your Court program saw two parks receive funding in 2023 to revitalize their outdoor facilities in Stanley Park (Vancouver, BC) and White Oaks Park (London, ON). Both programs are set to announce more projects for 2024.
Meanwhile, the Game. Set. Equity. commitment in partnership with National Bank is creating sustainable change for women and girls in all areas of Canadian tennis and gained international acclaim by winning the ITF Gold Advantage All Award in October. Thanks to its Community Tennis Grants, the initiative provided ten recipients spanning four provinces and one territory with up to $5,000 each in funding towards their programs in 2023. Rogers First Set, designed to inspire youth and families in communities across Canada to try tennis and learn fundamental tennis skills, was launched in July and is poised to rollout in all ten provinces in 2024.
National Tennis Growth and Development Strategy to be launched in 2024
To meet the demands of an increasing base of participants, in December, Tennis Canada and its Provincial and Territorial Tennis Association partners unanimously approved a National Tennis Growth and Development Strategy, set to launch in 2024. The strategy represents an alignment on priority areas that will support the growth of the sport over the next five years.
“We’ve achieved a major milestone in collaboration with our PTTA partners to align on a tennis growth strategy” said Eva Havaris, Vice-President of Participation and Partnerships, Tennis Canada. “It’s our mission to lead the growth, development and promotion of the sport while championing positive tennis experiences. To do that, we need to increase accessibility and focus our collective efforts on initiatives and programs that will have the greatest benefit for the sport and participants long-term. The future is very bright for tennis in Canada.”