Welcome to Tennis Canada’s 2021 Annual Report. Despite the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a year to remember for Canadian tennis with plenty of highlights and success stories for our sport. For years to come, 2021 will be earmarked as the start of a build back better period for our organization.
I want to quickly look back over the last few years as I prepare for my term as Chair of the Board to come to an end, which it will at this year’s AGM. I cannot express enough my gratitude to my fellow board members, all of whom volunteer so much of their time, energy and passion into the sport. As a group, our collective hard work has made my tenure all the more memorable and enjoyable. It has been a pleasure to represent Canadian tennis and build strong ties with other tennis federations, governing bodies and corporate partners. We have had some pretty exceptional times on the court as well, with Bianca Andreescu’s 2019 Indian Wells, Rogers Cup (now National Bank Open) and US Open titles, Leylah Annie Fernandez’s run to the final in New York last September and our Davis Cup team’s incredible runners up performance at the 2019 Finals in Madrid being the main standouts. There truly is no denying it: Canada is a world-leading tennis nation. But, there is still plenty more to be done.
When I look back at 2021, I am reminded of how much we accomplished. Of course, hosting the inaugural National Bank Open presented by Rogers events in Toronto and Montreal was particularly satisfying, especially after having to postpone our marquee tournaments a year earlier. Not only did we stage both events in 2021, but we also hosted fans in both cities which is a tremendous success story and one we thought near impossible just a few months earlier. There were also incredible performances from our Canadian players at the Grand Slam, ATP and WTA events all over the world. Though, I think it’s fair to say that Leylah’s captivating run to the US Open final was the jewel in the crown. The likes of Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime also played some spectacular tennis, each reaching the semi-finals of a Grand Slam at Wimbledon and the US Open, respectively. It was great to see Bianca back on the court too, after a hiatus due to injury in 2020. Gaby Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman continued to excel in doubles, while the ever-reliable Vasek Pospisil was on hand to lead our Davis Cup team at the Finals in Madrid. It was also fantastic to see the resurgence of Rebecca Marino, who made it to two Grand Slam main draws and scored a couple of riveting victories at the National Bank Open in Montreal in front of a delighted home crowd.
All that said, I think that some of my proudest moments in 2021 stem from our off-court initiatives. On the back of confirming the financial institution as the title sponsor of our world-class ATP and WTA 1000 events, in May, Tennis Canada announced it would partner with National Bank on a long-term equality strategy for the next ten years, which will create meaningful action and change for gender equality in tennis. The launch of this game-changing inclusivity initiative, marked by the release of our Girls. Set. Match. campaign, is a defining moment for tennis in Canada as we aim to increase participation in our sport at all levels among women and girls. Rogers Communications’ renewed seven-year partnership, highlighted by its crucial support for our National Tennis Centre (NTC) and Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program as presenting partner of both initiatives, is also key to helping us develop the next generation of Canadian tennis champions while simultaneously making the sport more accessible at a grassroots level. Meanwhile, our year-end fundraising campaign – Where I’m Raised – was a huge success and we cannot thank everyone enough for their generous donations as we continue to (re)build many of our programs following the financial impact of the pandemic.
As I bring my remarks to a close, I would like to reiterate that our organization’s future is extremely bright and exciting. Although my tenure as Chair will soon come to an end, I am thoroughly looking forward to working with my successor on continuing to fulfill Tennis Canada’s vision of being a world-leading tennis nation and our mission to lead the growth of tennis in Canada.
There are always challenges involved in growing a sport in a country as expansive as Canada. However, starting the process by nurturing the game in local communities, schools and parks across the nation has seen tennis participation and interest levels consistently rise over the past several years.
The growth of the game begins at the grassroots level and Tennis Canada’s numerous partners ensure tennis programs are accessible to children of all backgrounds.
In 2021, Tennis Canada worked with several grassroots tennis organizations to offer free tennis programming to kids from underserved communities. Over 1,200 kids were reached through these organizations.
These organizations offered each child at least six weeks of tennis programming to ensure they had learned the fundamentals and would be able to enjoy tennis as a sport for life. A Tennis Canada research found that 65% of municipalities offered kids tennis programming in 2021.
In October 2021, Tennis Canada was the first National Sports Organization (NSO) to host a National University Championships since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National University Championships took place at the Aviva Centre in Toronto, and Tennis Canada welcomed 8 teams, 85 players, and 20 coaches over the three-day event. In both the Men’s and Women’s events, the University of Alberta defeated Université Laval 4-3 in what were both tightly contested matchups.
More good news: 36 teams from 19 universities resumed university competition in the fall of 2021 for the first time since COVID-19 began.
With the return to competition in June, Tennis Canada and its provincial associations were excited to bring back quality match play opportunities for kids through the Rogers Rookie Tour and Future Stars Circuit programs.
The Rogers Rookie Tour gives kids their first opportunity to play organized tennis tournaments. In 2021, 140 Rogers Rookie Tour events took place across the country with over 1,300 tournament entries, and over 2,000 Rogers Rookie Tour matches were played.
Meanwhile, the Future Stars Circuit also flourished. The Circuit provides kids the opportunity to play competitive tennis in a fun environment. In 2021, 185 Future Stars Circuit events took place across the country with over 2,800 tournament entries across 8 provinces. Of the 185 events, there were more than 4,000 Future Stars Circuit matches that took place in 2021.
Rob Shaw, who competes in the quad division of wheelchair tennis, was officially welcomed to the Canadian Paralympic Team on July 16, 2021. He was one of the 128 Canadian Paralympians who took part in the 2020 Tokyo Games and the only athlete representing Canada in the sport of wheelchair tennis.
Canada sent a Quad Team to the 2021 World Team Cup (WTC) in Italy in September. Canada was represented by Rob Shaw, Mitch McIntyre, and Gary Luker. They placed seventh.
Unfortunately, there were no domestic ITF tournaments held in 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, senior tennis was mostly dormant in 2021. The Steve Stevens Senior Nationals, the Easterns and Westerns Indoors, and nine ITF events were among the 14 senior tennis tournaments cancelled in 2021.
The ITF World championships took place in Umag, Croatia and Mallorca, Spain. Several Canadians participated in the World Individual Championships.
Tennis Canada elected not to send teams to the World Team Championships.
After having to cancel the Fischer Indoor Junior Nationals, Tennis Canada announced in July that the Fischer Outdoor Junior Nationals were given the go-ahead to take place in September.
The Outdoor Junior Nationals were held in Toronto, Milton and Laval. The champions who were crowned at the events were:
There were also six ITF junior events held from August to November 2021. The number is down significantly due to the pandemic and is usually around 15-18 events.
Tennis Canada’s mission is to lead the growth of tennis in our country. Prior to the pandemic, participation in tennis and the popularity of our sport were growing rapidly in Canada. The results of a nationwide independent study on the health of the sport done at the end of the 2018 season had demonstrated that, during that year, nearly 6.6M Canadians had played tennis at least once, which represented 18% of the population.
However, during the pandemic, there was a decline in participation due to a lack of access to tennis courts because of required closures. Therefore, we know that incremental resources and efforts will be needed to help jumpstart our sport and encourage Canadians to get active again on public tennis courts.
Tennis Canada and National Bank have partnered on a long-term equality strategy for the next ten years, which will create meaningful action and change for gender equality in tennis. The multi-faceted program is an important milestone of National Bank’s corporate partnership agreement and demonstrates the Bank’s deep and long-term support for the development of tennis in Canada.
As part of the initiative, Tennis Canada and National Bank will create new opportunities for women and girls in tennis, encouraging them to continue playing and enticing even more to pick up a racquet, become life-long participants, coaches and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle and personal growth through sport.
In addition, Tennis Canada posted for a Director of Women and Girls Advancement, a new position created specifically to help the organization in advancing gender equality and growing the participation of women and girls in tennis, while maximizing their potential at all levels of the sport. Tennis Canada and National Bank developed a framework for future work in equality strategies, which include: Participation, Competitive Pathways, Coaching, Officiating, and Voice.
A preliminary step to advancing gender equality of women and girls in tennis was the launch of the Girls.Set.Match. campaign. Canadian tennis star and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu was also named as the first honorary Ambassador of the program.
Despite the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was still plenty to be positive about thanks to the exploits of Canada’s players on the court. Five Canadians finished the season ranked in the Top 25 – four in singles and one in doubles. Despite not playing in 2020, Bianca Andreescu remained Canada’s top-ranked player at No. 7 on the WTA Tour, with Denis Shapovalov a close second at No. 12 on the ATP Tour having reached a career-high No. 10 in September. Gabriela Dabrowski concluded the season ranked inside the WTA’s Top 10 in doubles for the third consecutive year. Milos Raonic (No. 14), who reached the final of the Western & Southern Open Masters 1000 event, and Félix Auger-Aliassime (No. 21), who reached three ATP singles finals of this own and won the doubles title at the Rolex Paris Masters, also featured in the Top 25.
Canada ends the year with six players ranked in the Top 50, a Grand Slam singles finalist and two WTA 1000 doubles champions
Despite the many events that were cancelled this past year due to the repercussions of COVID-19, in total 11 titles were won by Canadians on the professional tour, three in singles and eight in doubles.
Check out the Canadian tennis season by numbers.
It has been a year to remember for Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC). Starting the year ranked No. 88 in singles on the WTA Tour, she had a breakout season which resulted in her jumping to a career-high of No. 24 by November. Fernandez won the first WTA title of her career at the Abierto GNP Seguros 250 event in March, beating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-1, 6-4 in the final, and played a key role in Team Canada’s 4-0 win over Serbia in the Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs in April. Her biggest highlight, however, came at the US Open, where she beat three Top 5-ranked opponents to reach her first Grand Slam singles final, losing to Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu.
Aside from Fernandez’s spectacular run in New York, there were plenty of other Grand Slam success stories for Canadian players in 2021. Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon, losing only to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in a tightly contested match, while Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montreal, QC) made it all the way to the final four at the US Open before being beaten by Daniil Medvedev. In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) also reached the US Open semis alongside partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil. Indeed, at the US Open alone, four Canadians reached at least the third round, which is a first in Canadian tennis history at a Grand Slam event. In Fernandez, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, Canada was also one of just three nations – along with Russia and the Czech Republic – to have three unique Grand Slam singles semi-finalists throughout the year.
Canada closed the season with six players in the Top 50. Coming out on top is Dabrowski who, at a career-high No.5 in the world, is the highest ranked Canadian women’s doubles player ever. Next up at No. 11 on the ATP Tour is Auger-Aliassime, followed closely by Shapovalov at No. 14. Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) is at a career-high No. 22 in doubles, while Fernandez, following her spectacular season, is at a career-high No. 24 on the WTA Tour in singles. Rounding out the half-dozen Canadians in the Top 50, Bianca Andreescu (Mississauga, ON) – who returned to action in 2021 after a layoff due to injury and reached the Miami Open final in April – is at No. 46.
It was a highly successful season for Canadian doubles specialists Dabrowski and Fichman, both of whom won WTA 1000 events at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers and Internazionali BNL d’Italia respectively. Dabrowski and Stefani’s run to the title in Montreal included victories over top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens in the quarter-finals, as well as No. 6 seeds Andreja Klepac and Darija Jurak in the championship match. Along with regular doubles partner Giuliana Olmos, Fichman also qualified for the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico to round off an impressive calendar year. Dabrowski and Fichman teamed up at the Olympics to represent Team Canada in Tokyo.
The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team presented by Sobeys enjoyed early success in April when they defeated Serbia 4-0 in a Play-Off tie. That result, along with the team’s ranking, would ultimately seal their place at the Finals in November as they replaced former host nation Hungary in the draw. The team finished the Finals with a 1-1 record in its group which was not enough to qualify for a semi-finals place. Meanwhile, the Canadian Davis Cup team presented by Sobeys were also knocked out of the Davis Cup Finals at the group stage following loses to Sweden and Kazakhstan in Madrid, Spain. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Auger-Aliassime, Fernandez, Dabrowski, Fichman and Rob Shaw (North Bay, ON) all represented Team Canada. The Canadian Billie Jean King Cup team will be back in action in April 2022 at home to Latvia, whilst the Davis Cup team will face the Netherlands in March.
TENNIS CANADA’S NATIONAL TENNIS CENTRE PRESENTED BY ROGERS INTRODUCES ITS CLASS OF 2021–2022
During the fall, Tennis Canada kicked off the 15th season of its National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC), which opened its doors in 2007. Since the first iteration led by Louis Borfiga, the NTC has been home to over 50 athletes and proven itself by helping some of its players ascend to the highest spheres of international tennis.
The class of 2021–2022 is made up of athletes who have been training at the NTC for at least a year and throughout the pandemic: Victoria Mboko, Kayla Cross, Mia Kupres, Annabelle Xu, Jaden Weekes and Christophe Clément.
Get to know more about them in this video presentation.
The NTC by the numbers since its inauguration
Since last summer, Guillaume Marx has led the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers, as well as the regional training centres established in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, which bring together the best under -15 players in each region. Sylvain Bruneau continues to oversee the NTC’s transition program for girls, working in close collaboration with Simon Larose, and Marx runs the boys’ program with the support of Martin Laurendeau. Nicolas Perrotte and Virginie Tremblay are the Centre’s fitness coaches, and André Barette is the academic advisor.
Tennis Canada is also focused on supporting the national junior training programs for young players aged under 15 years old. The training programs are well established in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, supporting over 50 athletes. The goal is to work hand-in-hand with club leaders, private sector coaches, provincial associations and personal coaches to optimize the work they are already doing by supporting top prospects and coaches achieve their goals. Lastly, Tennis Canada also supports the strong work done in the club structure nationally by helping almost 40 Tennis Development Centres that are committed to developing players in the private sector.
In May 2021, Tennis Canada unveiled the new structure of its high-performance athlete development programs. Under the leadership of Hatem McDadi, Senior Vice-President of High-Performance, positions were identified and created to consolidate the status of Canadian tennis on the world stage. Among the individuals who play critical roles in the new structure are coaches Guillaume Marx and Sylvain Bruneau, who now assume greater responsibilities as Head of Performance and Head of Women’s Pro and Transition Tennis respectively.
As part of his new responsibilities, Marx oversees the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC), the regional tennis centres based in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver that bring together the best under-14 players in each area and the men’s professional tennis program including Davis Cup and Olympic tennis.
Sylvain Bruneau, winner of the 2019 Jack Donohue Coach of the Year Award, continues to lead Canada’s women’s program for professionals and transitioning juniors, as well as the Billie Jean King Cup and Olympic programs.
Based on an extensive analysis of the current structure and high-performance athlete development pillars of success, the new plan drawn up by Tennis Canada to support key areas of the player development pathway requires strong leadership coming from those key positions, and most importantly, key partners and staff to work effectively together. In addition to Marx and Bruneau, Jocelyn Robichaud was named Head of Under 15 Tennis Development (pipeline) and serves as the point of contact for key partners, provincial associations, clubs and academies to support their efforts to develop young talent. One more new senior position will be filled to bring more depth to the structure: Head of sport science and medicine (Performance science), a role which will provide cutting edge support to maximize results and optimize health for the entire high-performance system.
As part of this new structure, Janet Petras became Director of High-Performance Programs and Administration to provide leadership support for administration, link to the competitive structure, policies, and programs.
The team works with a strong group of national coaches, staff and accomplished external partners to drive High Performance development to more historic results.
Whether it’s putting a racquet in a child’s hand for the first time, winterizing tennis facilities to make playing year-round a possibility, developing top-tier coaches who are safe sport trained, increasing training and competition opportunities for the next generation of stars, Tennis Canada strives to grow the love of the game across the country. Through 2021, more than 4,500 individuals participated in Tennis Canada’s fundraising initiatives, raising over $2M to help further this goal. Thank you to all those who stepped up this year as we continue to (Re)build our #TennisNation!
One of the year’s top successes was the year-end fundraising campaign, Where I’m Raised, inspired by the tremendous showing from our Canadian players all year. Leylah Annie Fernandez, along with her father Jorge, helped launch this campaign, going back to their roots to share their tennis journey, highlighting the importance of grassroots- and community-focused tennis resources. The campaign also featured four aspiring juniors from Tennis Canada’s development pipeline – Jaden Weekes, Victoria Mboko, Denny Bao and Jacey Tian – giving them the opportunity to share their own journey and dreams of future success. As Leylah herself has shown, there is no one way of reaching the sport’s pinnacle. Every athlete has a different path to follow. Funds raised from the campaign will benefit young athletes across Canada to become the best they can be, regardless of where, when, or how they intend to do so.
Tennis Canada would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the tennis community for their support in this fundraiser, and especially to the generous donors who further inspired gifts through their matching donations: Famille LeBlanc, Bianca Andreescu and Félix Auger-Aliassime. Over $600,000 was raised during this month-long campaign to help Tennis Canada regain momentum and ensure everyone—regardless of gender, age, background or skill level — has the opportunity to play.
While we were fortunate to enjoy the return of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers last summer, the generosity of our donors was instrumental in the return of competition to other courts in Canada. Most notably, The Fischer Junior Nationals, forged ahead this past fall thanks to the generosity received from George Fischer, Karen Green and The Green Fischer Family Trust. The Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships were also able to be held this fall in Montreal, thanks to the two-decade long support received from named funder, Betty Birmingham. Through the support of numerous other leadership gifts from many members of the community, numerous other community courts were able to reopen their doors, while grassroots and youth programs started to be reinstated following their closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After learning of the financial losses experienced in 2020 as a result of the ongoing pandemic, Mark, Lori, Jordan and Ryan Shapiro stepped up and contributed to Tennis Canada.
How has tennis played a role in your lives over the years and what does it mean to your family?
MS: Over the years, tennis has been an integral part of our family dynamic. Playing tennis has allowed all of us to meet and make amazing tennis friends who have become very important parts of our lives. We have derived so much fun and have created great family memories from playing and being around tennis. Whether it be to the US Open, Wimbledon, Paris, Australia or, of course, the Rogers Cup (now National Bank Open), we, as a family, have been fortunate to attend and watch some of the greatest tennis ever played.
What inspired you to first donate to Tennis Canada?
We were inspired to donate to Tennis Canada after seeing how the current and former Canadian tennis players, and others, came together to support Tennis Canada at a time when the pandemic caused the cancellation of the Rogers Cup (now National Bank Open), Tennis Canada’s primary source of revenue. It was a truly remarkable campaign, and one for which we wanted to be a part to help give back to a sport that has and continues to be so significant and meaningful to our lives.
Tennis Canada has done a tremendous job over the past decade in developing world class tennis players and solidifying Canada’s place on tennis’ world stage. We are very proud to join the incredible group of donors – both players and fans alike – in supporting Tennis Canada’s extraordinary work.
What are you most looking forward to ahead of the 2022 tennis season?
Watching the tournaments are that much more fun when we are cheering on Canadians in the semis and finals of Grand Slams, and we look forward to a lot more opportunities to do so in 2022 while watching our Canadian players continue to rise up the rankings and excel on tennis’ grandest stage.
Tennis Canada continued to advocate for more year-round tennis facilities across the country in 2021. The year’s highlight was the announcement of an important new partnership with Rogers Communications. Tennis Canada and Rogers have invested in a Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program with funding available to municipalities and communities across the country. Rogers is the presenting sponsor of this community-based initiative.
As a result of the funding available, numerous municipalities are in consultation with Tennis Canada about developing year-round tennis in their communities.
Canada has only 750 publicly accessible indoor courts across the country, which represents only 1 court for every 50,000 Canadians. Rogers’ support for this project, in the form of much needed capital seed money, aims to help build more year-round tennis courts for Canadians, in partnership with municipalities and facility operators across the country.
In 2021, Tennis Canada and the City of Burnaby continued to partner on developing a Pacific Tennis Centre (PTC). Tennis’ popularity continues to grow rapidly in British Columbia, and publicly available tennis courts are at capacity. The PTC will help address this capacity gap with as much as 80% of court time available to the public. The vision for the PTC remains to create a community-serving tennis centre that will offer an accessible racquet sport facility for the public, while providing a home for the National Junior Training Program and the new home of the National Wheelchair Tennis Program.
In 2021, 47 in-person courses were delivered across the country by the Provincial Tennis Associations with over 400 participants being certified. On the High-Performance side, 20 coaches received their Coach 3 designation.
The Tennis Professional Association (TPA) hosted eight online professional development webinar events including a series of six geared towards the Under-12 development pathway in collaboration with the national coaches. In total, there were 526 registrants for the webinars.
At year-end, TPA membership stood at over 3,400 – an increase of just under 15% year-over-year and its highest number to date – of which roughly 2,750 were in good standing, meaning they had up-to-date certification and had completed all the necessary safeguarding requirements.
Those safeguarding requirements include a background check and the full completion of a Respect in Sport module. In total, 74% of coaches working at year-round, indoor facilities were in good standing by the end of the year.
In September, Tennis Canada and Pickleball Canada Organization (PCO) announced a long-term agreement related to pickleball coach development across Canada. The agreement sees a collaboration between PCO and the TPA to develop and implement a nationwide pickleball coach education and certification program that will be accredited by the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP).
“Our research clearly indicates that pickleball – while being a fast-growing, independent sport – can be part of the tennis pathway for life for some of the over three million frequent tennis players in Canada. These players include pickleball in their menu of recreation sports. Therefore, it makes practical sense for our well-established and well-respected Tennis Professionals Association, with over 3,000 members and 20 years of experience, to develop and deliver a first-rate coach and instructor certification program tailored for pickleball. It’s also right that a well-established national sports organization like Tennis Canada assist an emerging sport that can be played on tennis courts and is included in the offering of many tennis clubs.”
– Michael Downey, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tennis Canada
To date, 15 courses were delivered in the fall with over 200 people being certified.
The goal of Tennis Canada’s competitive structure is to provide opportunities for competitive match play for all juniors to prepare them for international tournaments. Over 350 junior tournaments were held across the country in 2020 with over 2,800 U18 players participating in at least one tournament. Tennis Canada’s competitive structure is designed to build a strong junior pipeline that feeds into its high-performance program.
With tournaments returning at different degrees throughout the country over the course of 2021, the officiating department continued to support the Canadian competitive structure. The National Bank Open events were delivered using Match Assistants instead of the usual Line Umpires, which was a new experience for many officials. Online training sessions were held before the tournaments in Toronto and Montreal to train Match Assistants. Both events used all-Canadian Match Assistants as well as Canadian officials holding Referee and Chief.
The Fischer Outdoor Junior Nationals were delivered successfully, along with a number of Junior ITF events, marking the return of higher-level competition. Canadian officials worked numerous ATP and WTA Tour events abroad as tournaments were relocated to North America because of the pandemic. Four Canadian officials were chosen for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Training and development continued throughout the year, with a focus on upskilling existing officials. A number of introductory clinics were held across the country, ensuring that we are able to staff an anticipated full calendar in 2022. The latter part of 2021 saw the creation of a strategy aimed at the promotion and development of Women in Officiating, which will be implemented in 2022.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, officiating membership numbers remained constant with approximately 300 officials in the system. 24 officials hold an ITF certification of which eight are at the international level.
Protecting the security, safety, and health of its young people, vulnerable persons, staff and volunteers remains a priority for Tennis Canada. As such, in 2021, the organization’s Safe Sport department focused on the following initiatives:
Tennis Canada introduced a new Safe Sport Code of Conduct with the rollout involving a virtual training session and the requirement for all staff to sign the new Code. This stems from the concept that keeping tennis safe starts with the sport’s key leaders and administrators, from board members and executives as well as all employees.
“Everybody says that the first thing that’s important for them is safety. Now, who’s going to do that? Where does it start? It starts with us. It starts with the coaches, with the officials, with the administrators. It starts with our Board of Directors and goes throughout our organization. It’s our moral and ethical obligation to do this for sport in Canada.”
– Ilan Yampolsky, Director of Safe Sport and Integrity, Tennis Canada
An online module is currently being developed that will be mandatory for everyone that has signed, or needs to sign, the Code. This module will ensure their understanding of the Code and the implications of not following it, as well as their rights.
In 2021, Tennis Canada – in collaboration with its PTA partners – distributed a series of communications to coaches and club leaders across the country with the purpose of encouraging as many as possible to complete their safeguarding certification, which is mandatory for all Tennis Professionals Association (TPA) – Tennis Canada’s coaching development arm – members. The final communication included video testimonials from various athletes who have experienced some form of abuse or have struggled with their mental health as a result of their involvement in sport.
Contributors included former Olympic skier Allison Forsyth, 2012 Olympian Rosie Cossar and current WTA athlete Rebecca Marino. Watch the video below:
A new era
In February 2021, Tennis Canada was proud to announce that National Bank, the presenting sponsor since 2005 in Montréal and 2010 in Toronto, is now the title sponsor of Canada’s two leading tennis tournaments. In summer 2021, the third-oldest event after Wimbledon and the US Open was even given a new name: the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. The decade-long partnership is the longest ongoing business alliance in the history of Canadian tennis and plays a critical role in the sport’s reach at all levels. Rogers’ essential support for tennis across the nation over the past 20 years—and for which Tennis Canada is exceedingly grateful—will continue since the communications company remains the presenting sponsor of the tournaments in Montréal and Toronto for the next seven years.
A challenging year
Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Toronto and Montréal was the first international event to be hosted in Canada since the start of the health crisis.
While the stadium capacity was restricted to roughly 5,000 ticket holders per session, the tournament marked the start of a new era as the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. The events were a resounding success with over 50,000 fans at Aviva Centre from August 9 to 15 and nearly 54,000 fans at IGA Stadium from August 7 to 15.
The National Bank Open would like to acknowledge the support of the government of Canada, the government of Québec, the government of Ontario, the public health authorities and the many partners that worked hard throughout 2021 to organize two world-class events and ensure the safety of everyone in attendance.
Fans at the Toronto event were treated to a world-class tennis tournament that culminated with the crowning of a new champion: Daniil Medvedev of Russia. En route to the final, he overpowered Alexander Bublik, qualifier James Duckworth, seventh-seed Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner of the US. In the deciding match, Medvedev went head-to-head against big server Reilly Opelka and claimed victory in straight sets (6-4, 6-3).
Due to the COVID-19 measures that were in effect, the usual pre-tournament events, such as the official draw ceremony, were low-key affairs. Still, there were plenty of off-court moments to remember. For example, Tennis Canada hosted some 300 frontline workers at Monday’s evening session. The National Bank Open’s top seeds and Canadian stars paid special tribute to them with a special thank you broadcast on the videoboard between matches.
To all the frontline workers, you are true heroes ❤️
— National Bank Open (@NBOtoronto) August 10, 2021
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, August 10, fifth-seed Denis Shapovalov surprised a group of ball kids with an afternoon Q&A session. The 22-year-old Canadian shared some advice with the young players and took the time to sign autographs.
On Thursday, August 12, third-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas kicked off the action on Centre Court on the day of his 23rd birthday. He got the party started early with a convincing 6-3, 6-2 win over Karen Khachanov of Russia. After the match, Tsitsipas got to celebrate his special day with a cake and the local crowd after his on-court interview.
Aw, it's okay @steftsitsipas, you don't look a day over… 23.
— National Bank Open (@NBOtoronto) August 12, 2021
In Montréal, IGA Stadium hosted some thrilling tennis matches as it welcomed practically the entire WTA Top 50, including Canada’s very own National Bank Open champion Bianca Andreescu and rising star Leylah Fernandez, as well as Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (the World No.3) and past Open champions Simona Halep (2018, 2016) and Elina Svitolina (2017).
Demonstrating once again the depth of the field and high caliber of the women’s game, it was the World No.39 who took home the National Bank Open presented by Rogers crown. In the final, Camila Giorgi of Italy outmaneuvered Karolina Pliskova of Czechia in two sets (6-3, 7-5). Giorgi, who was No.75 at the start of 2021, had a mesmerizing run in Montréal. On the road to her first winner’s trophy since 2018, she ousted four seeded players: Elise Mertens of Belgium (9), Petra Kvitova (7) of Czechia, young sensation Cori Gauff (15) and Pliskova (4), dropping only one set in the entire week.
In addition to Giorgi’s triumph, the National Bank Open presented by Rogers had many magical moments in store, and we have Canadian players to thank for it. First, Ottawa-native Gabriela Dabrowski became the first Canadian to win the National Bank Open presented by Rogers doubles championship since Daniel Nestor in 2008. She and Luisa Stefani of Brazil got the better of Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia in two sets (6-3, 6-4). In singles, Rebecca Marino of Vancouver had a dream week at IGA Stadium. She took everyone by surprise when she eliminated 16th-seed Madison Keys in the opening round and then went on to overwhelm then No.31 Paula Badosa of Spain to secure her first win in the second round of a WTA tournament since National Bank Cup in September 2018.
The tournament in Montréal also featured memorable occasions outside the competition, including a tribute to Louis Borfiga, vice-president of high performance, who had announced his retirement a few months earlier. The Tennis Canada team and fans in the stands reserved loud applause for the man who sparked the creation of the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers and played a pivotal role in the tennis and personal development of so many players, including Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard, Rebecca Marino, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Bianca Andreescu.
Hommage à Louis Borfiga, qui a littéralement transformé l'image du tennis canadien 🇨🇦 lors de ses 15 années de service chez @tenniscanada
Merci Louis, tu fais partie de notre histoire 🙏 pic.twitter.com/iJLNlCRVpt
— Omnium Banque Nationale (@OBNmontreal) August 11, 2021
The National Bank Cup presented by Rogers made the most of its new brand image and unveiled a totally redesigned winner’s trophy. Developed in collaboration with creative company Sid Lee and local craftspeople, the singular award was inspired by the duality of tennis and the tournament itself: two opponents and two cities, Montréal and Toronto. Representing two deconstructed racquets and a ball suspended between them, the piece embodies the challenge between two players—an unending battle since tennis’ inception. Made of copper, mirror and racquet strings, the trophy will be presented for the next ten years and beyond.
It all comes down to this.
Le moment de vérité.
— Omnium Banque Nationale (@OBNmontreal) August 15, 2021
Tennis Canada is proud to rely on the support of numerous partners year after year. Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of sponsors remained fully committed to the organization, proving once again that Tennis Canada has the privilege of counting on key partners.
In 2021, there were many highlights that stemmed from the collaboration between Tennis Canada and its sponsors.
In February 2021, Tennis Canada was proud to announce that National Bank, the presenting sponsor since 2005 in Montréal and 2010 in Toronto, is now the title sponsor of Canada’s two leading tennis tournaments. The third-oldest event after Wimbledon and the US Open was even given a new name: the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
In May, Tennis Canada and National Bank joined forces on a ten-year strategy to create meaningful change for gender equality in tennis. The multifaceted program constitutes a major milestone in the partnership agreement with National Bank and demonstrates the Bank’s support for tennis development in Canada.
To mark the start of the program, Tennis Canada also launched the Girls. Set. Match. campaign featuring Bianca Andreescu to keep women and girls in the sport through adolescence.
In 2021, Tennis Canada and Rogers announced their partnership on the Year-Round Community Tennis Courts Program to build 160 new covered courts in 30 facilities over the next seven years. The investments address the fact that Canada currently falls behind other leading tennis nations in providing access to the sport 12 months a year, with only 750 publicly accessible covered courts across the country—the equivalent of one year-round court for every 50,000 Canadians.
Tennis Canada also established a partnership with Rogers Communications that includes support for the newly renamed National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers.
In October, Tennis Canada confirmed that Sobeys is the new presenting partner of Canada’s Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup teams for their respective Finals in Prague and Madrid.
Biron Goupe Santé (Montréal) and LifeLabs (Toronto) are now the official medical testing laboratories of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. Thanks to their support, Tennis Canada was able to screen for COVID-19 throughout the National Bank Open events in both cities, thus ensuring the health and safety of everyo
Throughout the year, Tennis Canada works closely with 12 provincial and territorial tennis associations (PTAs) to continue to grow the sport across the country and make tennis accessible to all Canadians. The PTAs work tirelessly on the ground with local clubs, governments, sport organizations and coaches to promote and develop tennis across Canada. Key areas of the partnerships between Tennis Canada and the associations include participation, facilities, high performance and coaching development.
In 2021, the collaboration and tremendous efforts invested led to the reopening of wide range of tennis activities from coast to coast, including provincially sanctioned competitions, kids’ tennis tournaments, coaching certifications and community programming.
To learn more about the work of the provincial tennis associations, follow these links:
As the highest honour bestowed by Tennis Canada, the Distinguished Service Awards are presented to members of the tennis family who have made an outstanding impact on the sport in this country.