50 years of the Ontario Junior Closed

by Pam Olley

Winter 2016

The Ontario Junior Closed has a long list of prominent champions and showcased future competitors. This is the one to win.

Although the Ontario Junior championships had been held for many years it was in 1966 that the Youth Tennis Foundation of Ontario, took on the organization of the Ontario Junior Closed and arranged for permanent trophies for the event. Kew Gardens Tennis Club had hosted the forerunner of the event starting in 1948 and the tournament had most recently been sponsored by the Toronto Telegram. In 1966 there were 211 entries and Max Ward was the tournament director. Marie Davis, a tremendous supporter of Kew Gardens Tennis Club and the Junior events, wrote a report on the event for the Youth Tennis Foundation’s first official bulletin in 1967. She noted in her report that 1966 was the first year in which entries were restricted to Ontario juniors only.

The Ontario Junior Closed has been played at Kew Gardens Tennis Club for 50 years.

The Youth Tennis Foundation of Ontario was started in 1966 too. The purpose of the foundation was to provide education and instruction to youngsters in the different communities across Ontario in support of O.L.T.A. (Ontario Lawn Tennis Association) activities. This was in the era before a tennis instruction certification system had been established or the first Ontario Tennis magazine had been published or the name of the association modernised to the OTA.

The donors of the trophies were James M. Shaw (Girls under 12), Mrs. Gilbert Nunns (Girls under 14), Aubrey E. Ireland (Girls under 16), The Queens Club (Girls under 18), Col. Frank F. McEachren (Boys under 12), Col. Charles O. Dalton, D.S.O. (Boys under 14), John S. Proctor (Boys under 16) and Ernest W. Whelpton (Boys under 18). The Boys under 12 trophy was named the Frank Y. McEachren Memorial trophy, apparently Frank Y. McEachren, the late father of the donor, had won the under 12 event at Kew Gardens in the 1920s.

Different ideas on tennis development have caused some changes in the running of the event. At one point the intense competition for young juniors was considered to be inappropriate. The under 12 events were not held for the eleven years from 1987 to 1998. In the past decade or more Tennis Canada has made it a priority to ensure that the younger players develop their game on clay courts. With Kew Gardens converting 5 of their 10 courts to Har-Tru at about the same time, it became possible to hold the under 12 and under 14 events on clay while playing the under 16 and under 18 events on hard courts. This arrangement gives the players the opportunity to play on the same surface in serious competition that many of them will be playing on in August at nationals.

The event runs over two weeks with the 14s and 18s playing the same week and the 12s and 16s on the same week. This allows for younger players to hone their skills and play up an age category, if they can qualify. Feed in consolation has also been a key part of this tournament allowing for 6 players in each category to be placed and recognized. As the number of entries and the number of matches has increased, so has the necessity for using other sites particularly early in the week. The OTA is very grateful to Kew Gardens Tennis Club and the other clubs who have allowed their courts to be used for this important event. Sir Winston Churchill, the Donalda Club, Mayfair Racquet Clubs and various other sites around the city have all played their part in making this a success.

The Kew Gardens location has been popular because of the club house, the viewing area and the picturesque park and beach setting. The event at Kew has always drawn a crowd of spectators, particularly on finals day and the players were always on hand for the presentations. In the mid nineties a tradition of giving the girls flowers as part of the presentation was started. Kew Gardens had been the main site for the Junior Closed up until this year, when Kew members voted to limit the tournament to just one week’s use of the courts. Not only were some of the finals held at different clubs, the colourful bouquets of flowers were missing from the presentations. Fortunately, University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus upgraded its tennis facilities for the Parapan Am games this year and they were able to host some events. Veneto, having added new clay courts this year was also able to host an event and Pine Point stepped up to the plate to help out with their clay courts.

Flowers are given to the girls runner-ups and champions since the mid-nineties.

Trophies are presented to the singles champions, doubles champions and runner-ups.

Name Year(s) Accomplishments
Harry Fauquier 1954 Tour Player; Davis Cup for Canada
John Sharpe 1966 Canadian Open Doubles Champ; Davis Cup for Canada
Jim Boyce 1966 Tour Player; Davis Cup for Canada
Dale Power 1966 Tour Player; Davis Cup for Canada
Greg Halder 1967, 1973 Tour Player; Davis Cup for Canada
Glen Michibata 1974 ATP Player; World Dbls. Rank 5; Davis Cup for Canada
Andrew Sznajder 1979 ATP Player; World Rank 46
Hatem McDadi 1980 ATP Player; Davis Cup Player for Canada
Daniel Nestor 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 ATP Player; World Dbls. Rank 1; Davis Cup for Canada
Maureen Drake 1982, 1984, 1985 WTA Player; World Rank 47
Adam Baranowski 1992, 1993, 1994 ITF/ATP Player; Former Head Pro at Kew
Bobby Mahal 1991, 1992 ITF/ATP Player; Head Pro at Kew
Rob Steckley 1997 ATP Player; Davis Cup Player for Canada
Frank Dancevic 2000, 2001, 2002 Current ATP Player; Davis Cup Player for Canada
Peter Polansky 2000 Current ATP Player; Davis Cup Player for Canada
Sharon Fichman 2003 Current WTA Player; Fed Cup Player for Canada
Milos Raonic 2005, 2006 Davis Cup Player for Canada; ATP Player; World Rank 7
Gabriela Dabrowski 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Current WTA Player; Fed Cup Player for Canada