YONEX: The Official Racquet and String of the OTA

by Peter Malcomson

November 2020

From humble beginnings in Japan to a world leader in sports. An amazing journey.

The Ontario Tennis Association is pleased to welcome YONEX Canada as the “Official Racquet and String of the OTA”. The four-year deal which kicked off in January 2020 will see YONEX support grassroots tennis across the province, including title sponsorship of the Ontario Junior Indoor and Outdoor Provincials, the Senior Outdoor Provincials and the Ontario Open.

Executive Director of the OTA Jim Boyce commented: “The OTA is pleased to be a partner with YONEX Canada and welcome them as the Official Racquet and String of the organization. YONEX produce premium quality racquets and strings with excellent playability and resilience. We look forward to promoting the benefits of playing with any of the quality YONEX frames and strings to the OTA tennis community”. “We are very happy and excited to be partnering with the largest Provincial Tennis Association in Canada. The exclusive YONEX ISOMETRIC head shape found on its racquets is a unique breakthrough in racquet design, and we are committed to the constant development of products with cutting edge technology to give you the winning advantage. We look forward to helping improve the enjoyment and results of tennis players in Ontario” - Paul Staudzs, National Sales and Marketing Manager, YONEX Canada.

Before producing tennis racquets, the Yoneyama Company (Yonex) began manufacturing badminton racquets in 1957.

The YONEX Story*

Does anybody over the age of 50 remember the Yoneyama (YONEX) T8500 green aluminum tennis racquet from the 1970s? It was my first non-wood racquet growing up and I loved it! It looked so cool – all green and shiny and you could really hit the ball hard with it. I remember the YY’s on the handle – YY for Yoneyama, the family name of the company’s founder, Minoru Yoneyama. A version of the YY’s are still the YONEX logo today.

From its humble beginning as a wooden products manufacturer in post-WWII Japan, YONEX, then known as Yoneyama Company Ltd., has become a world leader in the sports equipment and apparel industry; supplying top end products to a variety of sports including badminton, running, biking, snowboarding, golf and, of course, tennis.

Yonex founder Minoru Yoneyama oversees operations at the company’s badminton racquet factory.

Fishing first, then Badminton

Founded by Minoru Yoneyama in 1946, Yoneyama started out by making wooden fishing floats. Utilizing its strengths in wood crafting, the company evolved into the manufacturing of badminton racquets for the Sanbata racquet brand in 1957. In 1961 Sanbata went out of business and in 1963, Yoneyama’s manufacturing headquarters burned down. Despite these setbacks, Yoneyama established Yoneyama Sports Co., Ltd. to manufacture Yoneyama-branded racquets, rebuilt the factory in three days, and expanded its business to the United States and Europe during this pivotal decade.

Frances Tiafoe connects on a backhand with his Yonex VCORE PRO 97. Canadian Eugenie Bouchard serves one up with her Yonex VCORE 100 (300) Red.

In 1965, the Tokyo factory opened its doors to manufacture shuttlecocks -- today, YONEX is the official tournament shuttle of all Badminton World Federation (BWF) major events, as well as the Olympic Games since Barcelona in 1992.

In 1968, YONEX developed the world’s first “T-Joint,” which led to Japan’s first aluminum badminton racquet. The “T-Joint” was inspired by a gas tap design that connected the frame and shaft.

Time for Tennis

In 1969, propelled by its success in badminton, YONEX expanded into the tennis industry with the aluminum T-7000 racquet. It also manufactured wooden tennis racquets and in 1974, signed Tony Roche, the fourteen-time major champion from Australia, to an endorsement contract to use them. Also, in 1974, Yoneyama re-branded itself as YONEX. YONEX’s iconic square-shaped ISOMETRIC™ racquet was first introduced in 1980, with the launch of the R-1, R-2, and R-3 models. Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova began competing with YONEX. In 1983, Navratilova won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open in both singles and doubles with the best-selling R-22 racquet. In 1990, Navratilova claimed her 9th Wimbledon title with the widebody RQ-180 and in 1991.

Another YONEX athlete, Monica Seles, became the youngest female player to achieve a World No.1 ranking. In 1996, Martina Hingis gained prominence as the youngest major champion in history at 15 years old and continued her legendary career with YONEX gear. In the early 2000s, Lleyton Hewitt became the youngest male World No.1 in history and claimed two major singles titles to his name: Wimbledon and US Open, using his YONEX frames. Ana Ivanović won the 2008 French Open using a YONEX racquet.

There is a long list of top players using YONEX racquets today, including Grand Slam Champions Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Stan Wawrinka, Australian Nick Kyrgios and of course, Canadian stars Denis Shapovalov and Eugenie Bouchard. In fact, YONEX has over 250 ATP and WTA pros using its racquets, apparel and shoes.

Japanese superstar and 3-time Grand Slam Champion Naomi Osaka hoists her EZONE 98 in the air after her first US Open victory.

2021 will mark the 75th Anniversary of the founding of Yonex Co. Ltd. Today, YONEX is a successful global company with its corporate headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan. Subsidiary companies operate around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Taiwan and China. YONEX continues to be driven to produce the most technologically advanced sports equipment to enable players, both amateur and professional, to play their sport at a higher level.

YONEX purchased the rights from its Canadian distributor in 1991 and opened its subsidiary office in Calgary. YONEX now serves over 400 national and retail tennis accounts in Canada. As well as partnering with the OTA, YONEX Canada also supports grassroots development through many Provincial and High School Associations as well as countless local initiatives throughout the country in both Tennis and Badminton.

YONEX’s social contribution is deeply tied to its efforts to spread and develop sports. By providing many people with opportunities to play sport, YONEX can not only spread the sport and increase the number of athletes, but also contribute to the revitalization of communities, respect for diversity, and the fostering of healthy, rich minds through sport. YONEX’s philosophy is “To contribute to the World through innovative technology and the highest quality products”.

The OTA looks forward to a long and successful partnership with YONEX Canada!

*Portions of this story and photographs were used with permission from YONEX.