Kristine Matthews belts the ball out of her side of the court. The former soccer player turned to tennis several years ago, and now devotes all her time to the sport.
The win this weekend by Canada’s Bianca Andreescu at the Rogers Cup women’s final inspires this up-and-coming player.
“It gives me hope. I know I’ve only played a couple of years. But it’s watching these players, I think, “I could do that, maybe. Like if I want to. If I really put my mind to it”,” Matthews said.
These clay courts are in full play most days at Bear Mountain, part of the growth of the sport. Thanks to Canada’s growing profile in tennis, according to Bear Mountain’s Director of Tennis, Russ Hartley.
“It inspires people. It puts tennis really on the map. And Canadian tennis is going amazingly well right now,” Hartley said.
On the far side of the court, Andrew Croll agrees that tennis has something for everyone.
“I’m in Nanaimo, and I belong to the Westwood tennis club there. And there’s a huge youth program there, you know,” Croll said.
According to Tennis Canada, 4.5 million Canadians played at least four times in the past 12 months, an increase of 15 per cent over 2016.
The region’s largest municipality sees more people coming out every year for all racquet sports.
The Racquet Sports Programmer for Saanich, Nathan Bailey, said tennis and other court sports, are easily accessible for all ages. Bailey said public courts are free, and reservations are not required.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the popularity of tennis. As well as pickleball, which is an emerging sport over the last few years,” Bailey said.
At the Beacon Hill Park courts, Shaopan Tsai returns each volley with ease.
“She is very good. She is better than I am,” Tsai said.
The 93-year old has slowed down a little due to a sore knee. But after 75 years of playing, he understands the key to Andreescu’s success.
“It’s a lot of determination, and focus. That’s hard. That’s the main reason she played well,” Tsai said.
Tsai says he intends to continue playing, for at least ten years, riding the wave of popularity of tennis.