Tennis nation? Excitement builds over Canada’s Rogers Cup success
Published Saturday, August 10, 2013 8:14PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 10, 2013 9:53PM EDT
As Canadian star tennis players move up the world rankings, the president and CEO of Tennis Canada says the future of the sport looks very bright here.
"Tennis in Canada really won this week," Michael Downey said Saturday, when two Canadians faced off in the men’s Rogers Cup semi-final match.
Milos Raonic defeated Vasek Pospisil to become the first Canadian in decades to advance to the final. Raonic will face Rafael Nadal on Sunday in what could be a historic match.
“It just doesn't get any better than this,” Downey said of the match-up.
"We'll have a ton of people watching this and at the end of the day it's great for Canadian tennis and we're going to have kids picking up a racket on Monday morning and that's going to be really great for the sport.”
Home court advantage at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and in Toronto, where female players competed for the trophy, saw fans buying tickets to see Canadian tennis stars make their mark on the game.
"It's just another major stepping stone to help grow the sport and grow fan interest,” Downey said.
"It's like a positive circle -- not only is this a great event but Canadian tennis players are helping to sell tickets, helping to drive a bigger audience and there's nothing better than that."
Downey said tennis is rapidly growing in a country better known for hockey.
"Hockey is a religion in this country and it's always going to have a special place in all Canadians’ minds but there's room for others sports and we know that our sport is going to continue to grow," he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his support for the Canadian tennis players on Twitter, calling the Raonic-Pospisil semi-final “fantastic news.”
“Let's bring the cup home,” Harper tweeted on Friday.
Casey Curtis, a leading Canadian tennis coach who worked with Raonic for nine years told CTV Montreal that the Thornhill, Ont., native’s drive for excellence has helped put Canada on the map in the tennis world.
“Everyone’s become inspired and seeing the success that Milos had, I think he was definitely a pioneer, as was Daniel Nestor and all those that have gone before,” he said Saturday.
Curtis says Pospisil is on the same trajectory and more like him are coming up in the ranks.
“I think you’re going to see a lot more Canadians climbing into the top 20,” he said.
Downey says Canada's changing demographics are helping grow the game. Tennis is like soccer, a truly global sport, and many people coming to Canada have a connection to tennis in one way or another, Downey said.
He said Canadian winters can be challenging for tennis players, but "that's something you've got to work around by getting more indoor facilities for people to play year round."
According to Downey, the key to the growth of tennis in Canada is strengthening youth programs, which are on the rise.
"Now we have kids’ tennis available with the right sized tennis courts, so those sorts of things are going help introduce our sport to kids earlier," he said.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Denise Roberts