Bill Suhay

by Deon L. Slabbert

Spring 2017

In South Africa 1969, was called “tennis year” with the slogan, TENNIS: The Game of a Lifetime – From 8 to 80. Bill Suhay from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, recently joined the ranks of octogenarians, but regarding tennis, it is not his cut-off time yet.

IIn 1992, Bill gave up squash and turned to tennis when the new indoor tennis court opened in the George Leach Centre (GLC) for Fitness and Recreation on the campus of Algoma University. This court is the only indoor court in Sault Ste. Marie with a softer surface and one may only book the court two days in advance. From Monday to Friday, players may start calling from 7 a.m. and Bill takes on the responsibility for reserving the court. One of his fellow players comments, “I appreciate his enthusiasm, passion, and desire for the sport and especially for his getting up by 6:30 a.m. to book courts. If there is a match on TV he never wants to know the outcome as he has pvr’ d it, and wants to watch the whole match."

Bill is Canadian with Hungarian roots. A fellow player mentions, “He escaped to Canada during Hungary’s revolution against the Soviet Union in 1956, carrying only the clothes on his back.” In 1961 Bill qualified as a mechanical engineer from the University of Toronto and came the Soo’s steel plant in 1962, where he met his wife, Cynthia. She is an immigrant from England who also played tennis and encouraged him. “My first racquet was a Dunlop Maxply,” said Bill. He now plays with the racquet that he got twenty-five years ago - a Dunlop Super Long racquet with a vibration rod into the handle of the grip. Bill added, “I used to have elbow pain. I tried physio, nothing helped; this racquet solved my elbow problem. I’ve never had tennis elbow since.”

Bill still plays phenomenal tennis, organizing indoor games three times a week, twelve months of the year, mostly with players stronger and younger than himself. Some have been 3.5 and 4.0 rated USTA Recreational League players. Bill says, “It is a challenging game with better players; I like the challenge, the competition.” Each GLC indoor session lasts one and a half hours, enough to play three sets with three different partners. He can still run for the ball, but he is limited - he wraps his knees before each session. His knees caused him to stop playing on the hard-surfaced summer courts.

“It is a challenging game with better players; I like the challenge, the competition.”

- Bill Suhay

Although Bill got introduced to the game in his old country during his teens, he did not take it seriously. In his youth, he was more into competitive swimming. He still swims three times per week, and plays golf in the summer. He loves cross country skiing and also used to play a lot of Badminton. In the study at his home, he displays the singles and doubles trophies earned as a champion during the years between 1975 and 1992 from three clubs, such as R.Y.T.A.K, ALGO Club, and NHTC. Bill is also an avid Bridge player and an excellent musician. He has began playing the violinat a very young age and later in life taught himself to play the mandolin and the piano.

Three of his fellow players made these remarks: “Bill is a tough, high strung, and fierce competitor. He is noted for angling his serve and compact forehand into the barriers on either side of the narrow GLC court. He is typically smirking broadly in satisfaction whenever he manages to get an opponent tangled up in them.” “He is a tireless competitor whose compelling spirit is a benchmark for us all. If you have the opportunity of hitting against him, my best advice would be to beware his topspin lob.” “Bill is a fantastic example to us all of keeping fit and never giving up. Whether he is 0-40 down or struggling to reach a drop shot there is no quit in him.”

To Bill, the game is not like the tennis year slogan says, …from 8 to 80. He exceeds that. He can still butcher his opponents with his topspin forehand. Bill has a final word, “As long as I can, I will play. I want to encourage young players that life does not stop at eighty, carry on!”