Inspired by the generosity of Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Anton Rabie, as well as past and present Tennis Canada board members, a group of Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame inductees have come together to match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 for the (Re)Build a #TennisNation campaign. That means public donations are now worth nine times their initial amount.
Around 15 strong, the cohort of inductees includes Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor. Inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2018, Nestor inspired a generation of tennis players across Canada to pick up a racquet, including Andreescu, Auger-Aliassime and more. Now, the 48-year-old is keen to ensure the next generation being inspired by Canada’s current stars have the necessary resources to achieve their goals, whether that be at the grassroots level or on the world stage.
“The success Canadian players have had on the professional tours, at Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup in recent years has been incredible,” Nestor commented. “And to see the impact that’s had on participation nationwide is even more thrilling. But the COVID-19 pandemic has really brought everyone back down to earth, and to know it’s had such a negative effect on Tennis Canada’s grassroots and high-performance programs is heartbreaking. We can’t let the last few decades of hard work and progress go to waste. Hopefully this group’s pledge can help towards protecting these programs and ensuring anyone who wants to pick up a racquet can fulfill their potential in the sport.”
As part of the group, an anonymous donor has pledged on behalf of 2011 Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Rene Simpson. Reaching a career-high WTA ranking of No. 70 in singles and No. 32 in doubles, Simpson enjoyed a stellar playing career before going on to coach (1998-2000) and captain (2001-2010) Canada’s Billie Jean King Cup team. She sadly passed away in 2013 at the age of 47 following a year-long battle with brain cancer.
“Beyond being a great Canadian, Rene was a fierce competitor and an outstanding Billie Jean King Cup captain, coach and team member for Canada,” the anonymous donor said of Simpson. “I know she would have been honoured to be part of the (Re)build a Tennis Nation initiative as she loved seeing our sport and athletes strive to be among the best in the world.”
Sonya Jeyaseelan-Gibbons was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011. During her playing career, she reached a career-high ranking of No. 48 in 2000, the same year she competed for Team Canada at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Following her retirement in 2004, Jeyaseelan-Gibbons became a club coach and recently decided to give back to the sport she loves by introducing progressive tennis for kids in Toronto-area public schools.
“As a former player, it’s been difficult to sit and watch what COVID-19 has done to the tennis landscape in Canada,” Jeyaseelan-Gibbons said. “I’ve seen colleagues lose their livelihood and players unable to take part in the sport at the grassroots level and beyond. I’m immensely proud to be part of the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame and I’m supporting Tennis Canada because I want the next generation of young players to have the same opportunity I did to build a life in tennis.”
“The competitive tennis structure in Canada has been decimated this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jacques Hérisset, a 2001 inductee to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame. “We now need to rebuild it so that our current crop of promising athletes can hone their skills in a competitive environment, which is so crucial to their development. Without the opportunity to test their mettle against other players in meaningful matches, their talent could stagnate. Through our contribution to the (Re)Build a #TennisNation campaign, we hope the competitive structure can thrive again.”
“This pledge made by our Hall of Fame members is nothing short of remarkable,” added Robert Bettauer, Chair of the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame. “However, it’s of no surprise to me given their history and the loyalty and passion this stellar group continuously demonstrates for our sport. We are all determined to not let the hard-earned growth and progress that tennis in Canada has made stall or go backwards. I know their goal is to inspire Canadians to donate to this initiative so that tennis can continue to grow and thrive across the country.”
Donations can be made online by visiting www.tenniscanada.com/donate. The (Re)build a #TennisNation campaign officially launched on November 9 on Tennis Canada’s digital platforms and runs until the end of December.