The Winnipeg National Bank Challenger is a special event as it brings tennis professionals from all over the world to the city.
But it’s also pretty cool for the local players like Kevin Kylar.
Kylar, a 24-year-old Winnipegger, has played in the event six times and it never gets old for him. Kylar lost a qualifying round matchup to Japan’s Toshihide Matsui on Monday, but will have a chance to redeem himself in the Round of 32 on Wednesday against Monaco’s Lucas Catarina as he is filling in for an injured Filip Peliwo.
“I mean, it’s quite more just about the experience,” Kylar told Tennis Manitoba on Monday, before he found out he’d be replacing Peliwo in the main draw. “I got in last minute. They let me know Saturday night that I got in. I was actually playing a money tournament in Fargo. So I played (Sunday) morning then drove up and it’s cool. It’s cool to play with ball kids, linesman and all that. You don’t get to play too many matches with that set up in the year so it’s fun.”
Kylar, who spent a couple years travelling the world playing professionally, said over the years, the Winnipeg National Bank Challenger has made big improvements.
“It’s grown a lot,” said Kylar. “The volunteers and all the staff do a really good job. They really take care of the players. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the qualifiers or just playing doubles or whatever. They go above and beyond to do it and the setup is really cool with the red backgrounds and stuff. And the stadium court is nice. It’s way different if you came here in a random day in June. They work really hard to set it up.”
But Kylar didn’t fall in love with the sport randomly, he grew up with it. His dad George, who’s with him every step of the way this week, is also a tennis coach.
“Until I was about 10, I didn’t like (tennis),” admitted Kylar. “I’d come to the club with him, hang around, but I wouldn’t play. But then he was a stringer at a big pro tournament in California. I guess I was hanging around the pros and said ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’ And I haven’t really looked back since.”