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The History of Toronto as a Global Tennis Hub

When Mississauga native Bianca Andreescu won the Canadian Open, she became the first Canadian to win the tournament in 50 years. The last to do so was Windsor-born Faye Urban-Mlacak in 1969.

Toronto has a long history of celebrating tennis talent. The Canadian Open, also known as the National Bank Open (formerly Rogers Cup), is the third oldest tennis tournament in the world, only behind Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. This is the history of tennis in Toronto — told through the many lives of the Canadian Open.

It takes place in North York, and before that it had a home at the Toronto Lawn and Tennis Club. The inaugural men’s tournament took place in 1881 and the women’s in 1892. At the time, the Club was located at 149 College Street.

A Travelling Torontonian Tournament

Today, the tennis tournament draws global attention to Toronto. While it began as an amateur tournament in Toronto, the cup has had many non-Toronto locales in its lifetime. In its early days, it had a home at the Queen’s Royal Hotel at Niagara-on-the-Lake — being played there 14 times between 1895 and 1914. 

The tournament also toured the country for a few decades between the end of World War I and 1968, visiting places such as Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Image: Getty Images
Returning Home to Toronto

It was 1968 when it returned home to Toronto, this was also the first year that it was opened to professional tennis players. In the years to follow, the tournament would rotate between the Toronto Lawn and Tennis Club and The Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, hosting legendary players like Arthur AsheChris Evert and Bjorn Borg.

In 1976, the National Tennis Centre was built and elevated Toronto and the Canadian Open even further as a tennis destination. In the 1980s greats like Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova graced the courts, and 1982 was the year that the Canadian Open’s men and women’s tournaments began rotating time between Toronto and Montreal.

In 2004 the National Tennis Centre was replaced by the Aviva Centre (formerly the Rexall Centre) with its first match between Andrew Agassi and Tommy Haas was played to a crowd of 10,500 people. Since then legendary players like Federer, Nadal, Halep, and Serena Williams have all taken home the prize.

Toronto has much longer history of championing tennis than you may think. From local players to international pros, Toronto has been elevating the tennis community for decades.

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