Judging by the numerous organized inter-club tennis leagues in existence across the province, there is little doubt that league play is a cornerstone of the game. Leagues have been providing a competitive outlet in Ontario for almost 100 years. It is estimated that over 10,000 adult and junior players play in some sort of inter-club league in Ontario each year.
Team Foot & Ankle’s Dawoud Kabli gets ready to poach at the net.
And… now there is a new league in the mix; the Mayfair Toronto Pro League! The league was founded in 2017 by Sandra Barrett, Sports & Sponsorship Manager and Ken Crosina, Director of Tennis, both from Mayfair Clubs.
Sandra had seen a version of this league in action in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She met with the two gentleman that started the Hilton Head Pro League to learn all the ins and outs, with the intention of offering the same type of league here in Ontario. The premise was very simple: Four teams, official player draft, six-week season, each team plays the other teams twice in three lines of doubles and, win or lose, the players are paid - $100 each for the winners, $50 each for the runners-up. Matches take place on Friday evenings with hundreds of spectators from all over.
Sandra explained “I met with Ken shortly after I started with Mayfair Club back in 2017. I told him how successful the pro league was in South Carolina. One of the main reasons was because of all the talented players in a relatively small geographic area; and felt we were in the same situation here in the GTA. To be able to bring these talented players together, at all different stages of their tennis careers, and not only show case their talent, but pay them - win or lose - seemed like a great new league opportunity and I couldn’t think of a better place than Mayfair Clubs to host the league.”
In the summer of 2017, Mayfair announced the start of the first MTPL season. Players from all over the GTA were invited to apply to play. In August an official Player Draft took place with the four team owners and team captains. The six-week league featured three lines of doubles for each league match. Teams played each other twice with a final event that took place in the seventh week.
The inaugural matches were played at Mayfair Lakeshore in September of 2017 in front of over 100 spectators. They were off to the races!
Ken was committed to ensure that the playing level was high, right out of the gate. “Over 130 players applied to play in 2017. They had to include details of their tennis career in their application. The draft was a good mix of competitors; juniors, teaching pros, former NCAA scholarship players and ex-ATP players. In our first year it was tough to get it down to just 52 players. There is so much talent in the GTA, it was hard to have to leave some great players on the table.”
The first seasons matches were spread over 4 courts with one of the middle courts being set up to act as a spectator area complete with chairs, tables, sponsor tables, banners and displays as well as on-court hospitality.
Ron Johnston and Joelle Glass have been coming to watch the MTPL since 2017. “We love the pro league. The set up is great and the tennis is amazing to watch. In fact, we found out that some of these players are hitting partners for the Rogers Cup and current pro players. That’s pretty awesome.”
While the players of the MTPL are an integral part of the league, without the support of the sponsors and team owners the Mayfair Toronto Pro League would not be in existence today.
In fact, Mayfair Clubs goes far beyond just hosting the nightly events. They dedicate resources, year-round, to sustain the pro league. This includes raising over $19,000 in prize money, each season, and the staff required to transform the tennis courts into a spectator friendly environment with courtside seating for over 100, dining tables, dedicated sponsor areas and more, each event night.
After six weeks of tremendous matches, the 2017 season came down to the last evening of the season, with Team Authentic Management emerging as the first league champs!
Team Authentic Asset Management’s Alvin Tudorica carves a winning volley.
After the 2017 season ended, the Mayfair team sat down and analysed the first-year results, both on and off the court, and decided that a second season was in order for the fall of 2018. There were a few tweaks made; the teams added a few players, the competitive format included one singles match, the spectator experience was enhanced and more sponsors were added. Like year one – the second season proved to be popular with the players, sponsors and the audience. Speaking of fans, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor have all shown up to take in the action!
Fast-forward to year three and the league is once again proving to be very popular. The player roster was expanded slightly, the singles line was replaced with a fourth doubles line and, for the first time, a female tennis player was drafted and played (and won)! Fan interest remains high. There over 20 sponsors and a couple of new team owners. There is also an opportunity for the team owners to bring in a “wildcard guest” to play a match – it could be a current or former pro or NCAA player – waddya say Daniel?
For anyone who loves tennis, it is easy to see that the Mayfair Toronto Pro League is an idea whose time has come. Melissa Raghurai, President and CEO of Mayfair Clubs is very pleased with how the pro league has developed over the past three years. “We are proud to support high level tennis and this league gives us the opportunity to highlight the incredible talent here in the GTA. When the crowds come to watch I can see the astonishment on many faces, and feel the intensity when they realize how good these players really are. I believe it helps to inspire them to keep improving themselves.”
Tennis is at an all-time high in popularity and the depth of talent in Ontario has never been deeper. The MTPL players put on a great show. There are some truly committed team owners and sponsors and Mayfair offers wonderful hospitality. It’s great for tennis!
For more information on the Mayfair Toronto Pro League, visit www.mayfairtpl.com. Photos courtesy Barry Kohl.