While the Aviva Centre is most often associated with the Rogers Cup that descends upon the city of Toronto every summer, there is another hidden gem for tennis fans that occurs on the same grounds each Fall. The Tevlin Challenger – a $60,000 ITF women’s event – will once again take place this year from October 28th to November 3rd and offers a unique opportunity to catch some live professional tennis before the season winds down.
The Tevlin Challenger provides a mix of up-and-coming players who will one day leave their mark on the WTA Tour along with veterans who are still traveling the world to play the sport they love. It is a real mixed bag of competitors which only adds to the appeal for fans of tennis players on both ends of the professional spectrum.
You never know who might use the Tevlin as a springboard for future success. Last year was no exception as those in attendance saw Canada’s Bianca Andreescu make it to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Quirine Lemoine of Switzerland. It goes without saying that Andreescu has made immeasurable progress since that time as she was clearly on the cusp of a meteoric rise in the rankings that began when the 2019 season kicked-off in Australia and culminated with her first Grand Slam championship at the US Open in September.
Other former Tevlin champions of note include Sabine Lisicki in 2007, Camila Giorgi in 2009 and CiCi Bellis in 2016. Last year saw 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson competing at the age of 37 while former World No. 7 Patty Schyder competed in 2017 at the age of 38 with her young daughter present courtside to watch.
Three times before have Canadians hoisted the trophy at the Tevlin, as Aleksandra Wozniak won the inaugural event in 2005, followed by Genie Bouchard in 2012 and Gaby Dabrowski in 2014. Many other young Canadians will be participating again this year and it’s a wonderful opportunity to support our developing players.
This year’s edition will feature plenty of Canadian content including Françoise Abanda, who held the No. 1 National ranking as recently as last year, as well as up-and-coming talent Leylah Annie Fernandez who captured the Junior Singles crown at Roland Garros this past Spring.
About the importance of events like the Tevlin Challenger on the Canadian tennis landscape, tournament director Ryan Borczon shared that, “The Tevlin Challenger is an excellent opportunity for our Canadian players to gain valuable experience playing on home soil, competing against top international players and collecting important ranking points. Playing at home provides players, especially our younger players, with the opportunity to take part in higher level tournaments that they might not have been able to play in otherwise. This helps them gaining experience on the professional tour.”
2014 Tevlin Champion Gabriela Dabrowski
The tournament is also an excellent chance for Canadian tennis fans to get up close to the action and even interact with some of the players in a way that often is not possible at larger events. There are four courts side-by-side that are housed inside the Rogers Cup VIP tent. Those who have never been there at this time of year will be quite surprised by the transformation in fact! Courtside seating is available and it is all free of charge. During the week there are no ball kids so the players have to perform some of these duties themselves which is a bit surprising at first glance, but such is life when you’re outside the top 100 in the WTA rankings. Most of the players are very obliging with autographs for kids or even just having a casual chat if approached due to the less formal environment.
“Local tournaments are also an opportunity for fans to watch our Canadian players in action,” suggested Borczon. “Athletes spend many weeks on the road and it can sometimes be difficult to follow them throughout the year. Promoting the sport on home courts benefits the players competing and the fans watching. The more Canadians follow tennis, the more likely they are to pick up a racquet and play. We want people to not only watch tennis, but to play our sport as well.”
If you’re a tennis fan and in the Toronto area during the last week of October then you won’t be disappointed if you come out to watch the Tevlin Challenger. It’s a mix of notable veterans and rising stars with plenty of passionate tennis players in between the two extremes who are still doing their best to pursue their dream of making a living on the court. As Bianca Andreescu proved this year, you also never know if the next big ticket in women’s tennis might be playing just a few feet in front of you!