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Tennis joining U Sports with start of pilot project

Tennis Canada and U Sports are collaborating to enhance university level tennis in Canada

On Oct. 20, U Sports released a plan to phase tennis into the Partnership Sports category that the national brand provides competitions for. 

“This collaboration signifies a significant milestone in our commitment to fostering athletic and academic excellence while expanding opportunities for student athletes across the country,” said U Sports’s Chief Sports Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley. 

This plan integrates Tennis Canada, the national sports association that currently hosts tennis events for Canadian players, including university students, into the process. 

In recent years, Tennis Canada has hosted the Canadian University Tennis Championships for all university tennis athletes who won their respective divisions. U Sports says these championships will continue to be hosted, but will now be in collaboration with them.

The national sports brand will also be using a new sport model program to introduce tennis into the brand. The program has three levels: Pilot Sports, Invitational Sports and Conference Sanctioned Sports. Within this model, sports new to the brand will have to start as Pilot Sports and work their way up the level as they garner a reputation within university sports.

“Joining U SPORTS as a Pilot Sport is a significant moment for Canadian tennis,” said Ryan Borczon, director of professional and national events at Tennis Canada. “This collaboration holds tremendous potential for the sport, and we are thrilled to work alongside U SPORTS to further enhance the Canadian University Tennis Championships.” 

This pilot project will mark the first time a sport has been added to the U Sports brand since curling in 2008.

“By enhancing the current university tennis events and exploring new options, the hope is that more people will continue to play tennis during, and beyond, their university years,” said U Sports in their press release. 

“Not only will this open new doors for student-athletes,” said Borzcon, “but it will also fuel the growth of tennis participation at the university level.”

This news should be exciting for Dalhousie University, as the Dal tennis team won the Atlantic division last season, going on to Montreal to compete in the Canadian University Tennis Championships in August. 

Both the men’s and women’s teams lost their semifinal games to the University of Alberta and Western University, respectively, as well as their third place matches against Western and McGill University. 

Regardless, tennis becoming a part of U Sports could allow the university to become dominant in another event at least within the Atlantic region. 

After the news was announced, players from Dal’s tennis team participated in an Instagram reel on the official U Sports Instagram account to share their excitement. They were featured alongside other Canadian university tennis players, including those from their most recent match ups with Western and the University of Alberta. 

2024 will be a big year for Canadian university tennis, as the goal is now for the sport to grow in popularity due to the new collaboration. 

Once the partnership reaches the Conference Sanctioned Sports stage, it can progress to the Core National Championship Sports category, which includes sports teams that compete in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) division as well as other respective regional divisions across Canada. 

“Together with Tennis Canada and our members, we look forward to serving as a catalyst in the development of top-tier talent in Canada and promoting the values of excellence and equity within our university communities,” said Johnson-Stapley.

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