Marina Stakusic forehand

Photo: Valérie Simard

Since its inception in 2005, the Tevlin Challenger in Toronto has become a great showcase of professional women’s tennis which has hosted many notable international names in the sport. This year, the $60,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event will take its promotion of the inspirational women and girls involved in every facet of the game to a whole new level beginning Sunday at Sobeys Stadium.

As part of Tennis Canada’s continued prioritization of gender equity, the tournament will feature multiple female-focused initiatives that go beyond the exciting action on the court. Firstly, in partnership with National Bank, 15 girls from the Philpott Children’s Tennis Girls Program to take part in a leadership workshop, where they will get the opportunity to learn about career pathways available in tennis.

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Secondly, the second edition of The Girls. Set. Match. Tie-break Tournament presented by National Bank will be held on championship Sunday aims to provide girls with a unique opportunity to compete in a fun, short-format tournament that removes the pressure of regular competition.

Lastly, an all-women crew of officials will be present throughout the week, and the ball crew for the tournament’s Sunday final will consist of a group of aspiring female tennis players, meaning all on-court staff for the tournament’s championship match will be female.

Ultimately, the goal is to inform parents of all the benefits that the sport has to offer in a way that compels them to choose tennis for their girls. Sharing the grassroots stories of women and girls in the game will assist in accomplishing that all while allowing people to appreciate how awesome tennis truly is. 

“You want to focus on the development and the growth of the sport for young girls and their experience in it. You want to help develop and accelerate the careers of women who choose to be part of the tennis industry,” explained  Eva Havaris, Vice-President of Partnerships and Participation at Tennis Canada. “If you’re not intentional about making these changes and advancing women and girls, it is harder for them to do in sport.”

The Passion of Mike and Nicole Tevlin

It’s only fitting that the tournament has been named after Mike and Nicole Tevlin since the beginning. Not only is the event made possible thanks to their generous investment contributions, but both are also huge advocates of promoting and supporting women and girls in tennis. They are committed to providing more opportunities for females to get involved in the game.

Aleksandra Wozniak

Their ongoing involvement has helped grow the tournament year after year, bring some of the best players in the world to Toronto, and allowed young Canadian athletes to propel their professional careers to the next level. Case in point, Aleksandra Wozniak won the inaugural Tevlin Challenger as an 18-year-old before she went on to achieve a career-best ranking of no. 21 and capture a WTA title.

The list of the event’s past champions also includes the likes of Sabine Lisicki, Camila Giorgi, Tatjana Maria, and Eugenie Bouchard, who defeated her compatriot Sharon Fichman in an all-Canadian final in 2012.  

A Much-Anticipated Return

The Tevlin Challenger will be held for the first time since 2019 and will welcome back American Francesca Di Lorenzo, the event’s defending champion. The 25-year-old posted one of the biggest victories of her career over former world no. 13 Kirsten Flipkens in the final three years ago and she’ll look to become the first back-to-back singles champion in tournament history.

Next week’s field will also include Su Jeong Jang (world no. 133) of the Republic of Korea and Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund (world no. 136). Both players have made significant jumps in the rankings this season in addition to making their Grand Slam debuts. Meanwhile, former world no. 12 Yanina Wickmayer, who is playing the Saguenay National Bank Challenger, will be one of the most recognizable names in the draw.

The Canadian contingent will be led by Toronto native Katherine Sebov who tends to play well during the fall indoor hard court season. She will be joined by fellow Canucks Marina Stakusic, Cadence Brace, Stacey Fung, and Kayla Cross.

Given the quality of the player list, it promises to be another exciting week of tennis at Sobeys Stadium filled with thrilling matches and meaningful innovations that will hopefully affect positive change on the path to a better future for our beloved sport and the people who continue to make a difference.