The final curtain fell on the 90th annual Leith Wheeler Stanley Park Open on Sunday, July 24 with the wrap-up of the Men’s and Women’s Singles events. It was a tournament that had many familiar elements and one that brought some changes too. The 17 days seemed to stretch ahead when play began, but the time was gone in the blink of an eye. After two years of COVID, the tournament returned to the traditional 17-day format with support from the Province of BC’s COVID Recovery Fund.
For the first time, the Girls’ Team event took place providing a format that encouraged fun on and off the court. Another big change this year and a first-time event for the LWSPO took place on the last day of the tournament—the first-ever live-streaming of the Men’s and Women’s Singles finals by Roll Focus Productions.
Warming up the courts for play
The tournament’s prologue was the annual Leith Wheeler Hit and Giggle, which gave Leith Wheeler employees and their families a chance to get out on the courts, play some tennis, and have some fun on the day before tournament play began. It was a huge success and included Tennis BC staff on hand to give some coaching pointers for beginners and seasoned players alike. Stanley Park Brewing was the end-of-day destination for all for some appys and refreshments.
Opening Day and plain sailing
Day 1 opened with the Roger’s Rookie Tour, the biggest Rookie Tour event in BC. Kids in the U8, U10 and U12 age groups played matches using progressive tennis balls and appropriately sized nets, courts, and racquets. NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) events began in the evening with player categories ranging from 2.5 to 4.5.
Day 2 saw the beginning of Junior ITF (International Tennis Federation) play which coincided with the Girls’ Team Tennis event for players U12 to U14. Day 3 continued the NTRP draws with an astounding 84 matches played in that group alone.
The main draw of the Junior ITF began on Day 4 along with the 3.5 Star Juniors, a mid-range provincial ranking event.
Play continued each day with hundreds of competitors taking to the courts. The weather had been perfect, but the luck was not to hold—rain on Day 8 meant that tournament organizers had to find indoor courts for play to continue and to ensure that the tournament didn’t end up too far behind schedule. As any good organizers would, and knowing the weather in Vancouver, a back-up plan was already in place.
It was a challenging logistical task to sort out, but somehow, the amazing Tennis BC staff on site got the job done and play went ahead. Day 9 proved a little better as a light drizzle fell. The Junior ITF Boys’ and Girls’ singles went ahead at the park, but the decision had already been made to move the Open Men’s qualifying indoors to the Tennis BC Richmond Hub—a good call by Tournament Organizer Max Korkh. Matches were spread out in the Lower Mainland at Tennis BC Member Clubs; Burnaby Tennis Club, Hollyburn Country Club, and the North Shore Winter Club.
Despite the efforts of the army of parents, volunteers and Tennis BC staff, the squeegees, towels, and leaf-blowers were no match for the elements as rain fell again. Day 8 featured looming skies and more rain, so play stayed indoors.
Blue skies return—eventually
The weather on Day 11 looked ominous—dark skies loomed over the park. Play went ahead anyway, and by the afternoon, blue skies had returned. It was, thankfully, the last of the rain—fair skies would prevail for the duration. The 260 competitors in the NJOS (National Junior Open Series) took to the courts vying for a wild-card spot at the Fischer Junior Nationals. Categories included Boys’ and Girls’ Singles in the U12, U14, and U16 age groups. Competition was fierce as the tournament wore on and the level of play from such young competitors was excellent.
Day 11 featured the beginning of the main draw of the Open Men’s and Women’s Singles events, while NTRP had to play catch-up after the rain. This year’s Open event was provided with a $30,000 prize pool through the generous sponsorship of Tennis Canada.
By Day 13, finals weekend was on the horizon, while the Open Doubles provided some great theatre. The Stanley Bark Open got into the competitive spirit pitting Tournament Organizer Max Korkh against a curly haired pupper called Bella—an Instagram poll was launched to see who wore the curls the best. In the end, it was a draw!
First of the finals—NJOS
Still trying to catch-up on Day 14, the NTRP carried on under sunny skies as well as the NJOS and the Men’s and Women’s Open Singles. Day 15 saw the first of the “big” finals featuring some smaller players in the morning as the NJOS players wrapped up their tournament with some riveting tennis. Also on Day 14 were the Men’s Open semis along with the Doubles quarters.
Day 16 featured the Women’s Open Doubles and Men’s Open Doubles finals on the showcase courts, while in the background, the Tennis BC/YMCA Community Day saw people from all walks of life and of all ages come out to have a go and learn to play—instant tennis and instant friendships over the net!
Setting the stage for the closing act
By Day 17, so much excellent tennis played—but the best was yet to come. For organizers, the day began early, setting the stage for the first-ever live-streaming of the LWSPO Singles finals. The centre court was prepared with banners, sponsor signs, and of course, the trophy table. Umpires and ball kids were put through their paces, and at 10:00 a.m., the Women’s Singles final began. Local tennis legend and seasoned commentator, Robert Bettauer, was on hand to do the commentary, handling analytics and colour commentary with ease. Sixteen-year-old BC player, Alessia Cau (3) took on Alberta’s Jena Cheng in a baseline battle with Cau triumphing 6-4, 6-4. At 1:00 p.m., the Men’s Open Singles took the stage with eighteen-year-old Henry Ren (5) from BC, taking on Riaan Dutoit (3), also a BC local, in an exciting match in the heat of the day.
Until next year
Over the course of the 17 days, spectators had come and gone. Many faces becoming familiar as the days progressed. It became a temporary community welcoming all to the game. It was entertainment of the best kind—there was drama, compassion, plot-twists, human connection, tempests, and more action than a Marvel movie. There were battles—and losses and victories—and it brought out the best in most.
After the last ball was struck, Tennis BC staff and the team of volunteers set to the bittersweet task of tearing down. It had a last-day-of-camp feeling as the courts were returned to their pre-tournament state—they were relieved to see the end and to know that it was a huge success, and yet sad that it was over! Until next year!
To our many sponsors: Tennis BC could not do this without your support—you help to make this event the showcase it is. A huge thank you to our stalwart crew of volunteers—you did an amazing job every day! And one huge cheer for the tireless tournament organizers, Max Korkh, Jazmin Zastera, Ika Setyawati, Ute Buffotot, and Harry Young.
Tennis BC would particularly like to thank our title sponsor, Leith Wheeler, for their continued and generous support of the Stanley Park Open, and of course, to our many sponsors without whom this would be impossible.
More photos below:
As it happened:
LWSPO results by category:
Men’s Singles: Henry Ren (5) def. Riann Dutoit (3), 6-4, 6-3
Women’s Singles: Alessia Cau (3) def. Jena Cheng 6-4, 6-4
Men’s Doubles: Jackson Boone (1) and Henry Ren def. Uday Partap Singh Chahal (2) and Prabhjot singh Kang 6-2, 6-4
Women’s Doubles: Juliet Jia Wen Zhang (1) and Wendy Qi Wen Zhang def. Alessia Cau (2) and Zehra Suko 6-7(6), 6-4, 10-3
Mixed Doubles: James Kang (1) and Wendy Qi Wen Zhang def. Shane Nicholls and Annamaria Donaldson 6-0, 6-0
JUNIOR ITF (J4)
Boys’ Singles: Denny Bau (1) def. Connor Church (2) 7-5, 6-3
Girls’ Singles: Alessia Cau (2) def. Isabella Asenau (5) 6-3, 6-1
Boys’ Doubles: Jack Davison and Owen Nguyen (4) def. Benjamin Azar and Miko Lapalme 6-2, 6-5
Girls’ Doubles: Alessia Cau and Sarah Allier (1) def. Eliann Kook and Gian Octa (2) 6-0, 6-3
NJOS (all Singles)
Boys’ U12: Matthew Popa def Christian Grecu (1) 6-4, 7-6 (0)
Girls’ U12: Ciena Ahreum Yoo (2) def. Rachel Wu (1) 6-1, 6-2
Boys’ U14: Gary Chuyue Jiang (1) def. Maksim Gluic (2) 6-1, 6-1
Girls’ U14: Charlie Gabrielle Celebrini def. Brook Anne Tuffs (2) 6-3, 6-0
Boys’ U16: Owen A.K. Nguyen (1) def. Mustafa Murtoza Raja (2) 6-2, 6-2
Girls’ U16: Rebecca Jauzy (4) def Havana Kadi (2) 6-3, 6-4