Tennis players Emma Dong and Owen Nyguen say seeing Canadian professionals such as Bianca Andreescu, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Leylah Fernandez do well in international tournaments inspires them to compete on the court – and possibly turn pro someday.
Dong and Nguyen, both 14, are already winners. Dong won the girls’ singles and doubles titles and Nguyen won the boys’ singles title at the U14 (Under 14) Fischer Outdoor Junior Nationals in Laval, Que. in September 2021.
“[Andreescu, Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and Fernandez] are Canadian and if they can do it, I mean I can too,” Nguyen said.
Canadian tennis players have been among the best in the world in recent years. Andreescu won the US Open in 2019. Fernandez reached the final of the same tournament in 2021, and earlier this month, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov helped Team Canada clinch his first ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) Cup title win.
According to a 2019 executive report from Tennis Canada, 6.5 million Canadians played the sport in 2018, and there was a 36 percent increase in frequent play over a two-year period between 2017 and 2019.
Tennis BC CEO Mark Roberts said that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, facilities have been busier due to open access to outdoor public courts, while other sports may have been more difficult to play.
The organization operates two facilities: six lanes in Stanley Park, which are open during the summer months, and an indoor four-lane facility in Richmond. Roberts said there is a 250-person waiting list for classes at the Stanley Park facility, and most of those people are beginners.
In addition, Richmond’s courts are occupied about 97 percent of the time, which is consistent with other indoor facilities in the county, he said. There are less than a dozen indoor facilities around BC
“Demand far exceeds supply,” says Roberts.
He said Tennis BC is working with Tennis Canada to build more public indoor facilities, including a new training facility in Western Canada in Burnaby, which will have both indoor and outdoor courts open to the public.
Meanwhile, the organization has partnered with local tennis clubs such as the North Vancouver Tennis Club, the Coquitlam Tennis Center and the new Langley Tennis Center to offer programs to the public. This means that players do not have to be members of the club to use the facilities.
“The reality of our sport is that the vast majority of our players are not elite… they play occasionally or very often and they use the public courts to basically get all their game,” Roberts said.
‘Competition is fun’
Both Dong and Nguyen started playing tennis at a young age.
“I started playing tennis with my father at the age of five, and when I was seven, I started training at a club,” Dong said.
Nguyen started at the same age and competed by the time he was eight or nine, he said.
Nguyen said he loves the sport because he can compete for himself and see how good he is against his opponents.
“I think competitions are fun in my opinion.”
She also loves Dong that tennis is an individual sport that offers variety from game to game.
“I feel like it’s really a mental game, more than a physical one, honestly,” she said.
Despite the pandemic, Nguyen and Dong hope to continue participating in tournaments at home and abroad. Dong said she is looking forward to competing in the Fischer Indoor Junior Nationals in March. But her long-term ambitions extend beyond that.
“I hope to play all Grand Slams and finish in the top 10. That would be a dream.”