TORONTO – Years of careful planning and millions of dollars worth of investments are beginning to pay dividends for Tennis Canada. The recent success of tennis stars Eugenie Bouchard and Thornhill native Milos Raonic is no accident.
“Investment in tennis development is probably north of ten million dollars a year. That’s development in the whole program – coaching, officiating, wheelchair, seniors’ tennis, junior tennis and high performance,” Gavin Ziv, director of national events at Tennis Canada said.
The organization has dedicated much of their effort to three centres of excellence in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
“There’s about 15 to 20 kids at these centres. The kids go to school there, they train there. They live with billets and they travel with us all around the world to different competitions, and this is really helping out,” according to Ziv.
In addition to these centres Tennis Canada has enlisted the help of prominent international coaches (including Louis Borfiga, who ran France’s developmental programs) to bring some of their experience and insight into Canadian Tennis.
The recent success has fueled a surge in popularity for tennis which previously remained hidden in the shadow of hockey.
“This evolved from being a sports story, to a news story, to a story that has embraced and touched 32 million Canadians,” according to Howard Bloom, publisher of Sports Business News.
The game has undergone seismic shifts in years with lighter racquets and stronger players translating into harder hitting. The power game is no longer unique and therefore training and development must keep pace in order for athletes to compete.
“The times when I played, you had to have more shots because the power wasn’t there and you just had to be a little bit more creative. Yet now, you have to be so physically strong, and your timing just has to be impeccable,” Carling Bassett-Seguso said.
Until Bouchard took the stage, Bassett-Seguso was Canada’s most well-known female tennis player. She says Bouchard is good enough to be ranked number one in the world.
Currently she sits at number 13 and is set to face her toughest challenge yet, both in her opponent and the situation before her: the Wimbledon final.
Bouchard plays Petra Kvitova, a hard hitting Czech who’s already won Wimbledon once on Saturday.