Junior tennis in Manitoba got stronger when a family from the Philippines moved to Winnipeg in March of 2017. Marlon and Evy Gnilo along with their four kids – Lance, 18, Magnus, 13, Caleb, 9 and Samantha, 8 – lived just outside of Manilla before coming to Canada.

“We came here for the future of the kids,” said Marlon. “Because the kids are still young and we have four of them, that’s why we decided to come here for their future.”

The family was sponsored by Evy’s cousin, who lives in Winnipeg.

“Some of my friends, when they come here the processing only take one or two years but in our case it took us almost six years – six years since we first started to submit our documentation until we got our visa,” Marlon said.

Magnus remembers his first day in Winnipeg.

“I first came here wearing a sweater and it was so cold,” he said. “I saw the snow and tried touching it and it was really, really cold.”

In the first tournament Magnus and Caleb Gnilo played in Winnipeg, the 2017 Prairie Junior Championships at Taylor Tennis Club, Caleb won the Future Stars Circuit U10 singles and Magnus captured the Tier 2 U12 singles and Tier 2 U14 singles titles.

Caleb has won the Future Stars Circuit U10 championship in each of the five Tennis Manitoba tournaments he’s played, while also winning the Tier 2 U12 singles at the 2017 Deer Lodge Junior Classic and the 2018 Tuxedo Junior Open. Magnus won the Tier 2 U16 singles at the Kildonan Junior Open in May. The brothers teamed up to capture the Tier 2 U18 doubles title at the Tuxedo Junior Open in June.

“My main goal why I train them to play tennis is for their fitness, for their physical health,” said Marlon. “Especially now that we come here to Canada, the wintertime is so long.”

Magnus once had a ranking of No. 6 nationwide in the Philippines in U10.

“If we did not leave our country we were expecting Caleb to become one of the top in under 10 because he started so young,” Marlon said. “At six he was already joining a lot of tournaments and earning a lot of points.”

Magnus and Caleb also competed in swimming in the Philippines.

“During the time I was already playing tennis and I said it’s hard because I have to drop them to the swimming pool and then I go to a tennis court,” Marlon recalled. “Then one day I thought maybe I’ll just bring them to the tennis court so we’ll be at one location and that’s the time I shifted them to tennis.”

The brothers travelled all over the Philippines playing tennis tournaments, with the competitions taking one to two weeks to complete.

“Caleb was able to learn tennis so fast because Magnus is there and Caleb has a hitting partner,” said Marlon. “That’s the good thing in tennis, if you have a good hitting partner.”

Magus and Caleb were always doubles partners in the Philippines, just as they are in Winnipeg. At one tournament back home, they won the doubles title despite an injury to Caleb.

“Caleb was injured and he had a cast on his arm, but his coach told him to just hold the racquet because they know the opponent is not that good so they still became the champions,” Marlon said.

Caleb remembered what it was like to hold the racquet with the cast on.

“I kind of just used the neck of the racquet and it was easier to hit,” he said.

The brothers go to Sargent Park School, with Magnus in Grade 7 and Caleb in Grade 4. They play tennis at Winnipeg Winter Club and Sargent Park Tennis Garden, as well as on the Corydon Community Centre courts.

“We play almost every day after school,” Magnus said.

Caleb’s favourite player is Novak Djokovic, while Magnus sides with one of Djokovic’s main rivals.

“For me, since I’m left handed, I like (Rafael) Nadal,” said Magnus.