With many public courts being resurfaced over the past few years, opportunities are growing for people to take up tennis in the province.
For spring/summer 2016, Tennis Manitoba will be facilitating programs for kids and adults at River Heights Community Centre, Sir John Franklin Community Centre, Notre Dame Recreational Centre and Riverview Community Centre. This past winter, a new program operated by Tennis Manitoba for juniors and adults at Sturgeon Heights Community Centre attracted 48 participants.
Kids can also give tennis a try in schools. Tennis Manitoba facilitated once-a-week after-school programs in 2015-16 at Pacific Junction School and River West Park School, in addition to conducting clinics at Shaftesbury High School, Ecole Dieppe School, Vincent Massey Collegiate and Ecole Dugald School.
All of Tennis Manitoba’s school/community centre programs use progressive tennis equipment: shorter racquets for kids, low-compression balls and mini-nets.
“Just having the facility limitations we have in Manitoba, we have to use progressive equipment in very creative ways,” said Jared Connell, Director of Tennis Development/Head Coach for Tennis Manitoba. “That’s how we’re going to get interest in the sport.”
The progressive tennis model allows players to maintain longer rallies and improve at faster rates. It’s a model that works well for players of all ages, said Connell.
“I’ve had multiple classes where I’ve had seniors and seven-year olds and they can take the same class,” he said.
Kids can get an introduction to tournament play in Manitoba with the Rogers Rookie Tour.
“I always tell them if they can hit the ball – at whatever court size they’re going to play at – two times over the net, they’ll do well in a Rogers Rookie,” said Robert Kennedy, Tennis Manitoba’s Rogers Rookie Tour coordinator.
The Rookie Tour tournaments are all one-day events with an emphasis on participation – the 2016 schedule consists of 14 events held at numerous sites in the province.
Tennis Manitoba organizes junior and adult tournaments for players of all levels, including an inaugural Year-End Championships in September for the top ranked players in various adult categories.
Winnipeg also hosts a men’s and women’s professional tournament – the National Bank Challenger at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club (WLTC). The event, held July 9-17, features many activities including a Pro-Am and a Kids’ Day.
This will mark the fifth straight summer of professional tennis in Winnipeg. Top players from around the world have come to the city, including Johanna Konta of Great Britain. Konta, who reached the Australian Open semifinals in January, won the 2013 Women’s Challenger at WLTC.
The 2016 National Bank Challenger at WLTC will be the second largest combined men’s and women’s Challenger tournament in Canada of the year following the Granby Challenger in Quebec. Players ranked anywhere from 45 to 200 in the world are expected to make the stop in Winnipeg. They will compete for $100,000 in prize money – $75,000 on the men’s side and $25,000 on the women’s side.
“Our city will see some of the world’s finest players showcasing their skills during the nine day event,” said Mark Arndt, tournament founder and Executive Director of Tennis Manitoba.
For more information on Tennis Manitoba programs and events, visit tennismanitoba.com.