A piece of history

Kaz Kitchener, a junior tennis player, examines the 123-year Davis Cup when the tennis trophy paid a visit to the Thunder Bay Community Tennis Centre on Wednesday.

Opening week at the Thunder Bay Community Tennis Centre was blessed with a little extra spice on Wednesday.

Taking up almost half the club lounge, the glass-encased Davis Cup — emblematic of the World Cup of men’s team tennis — was present courtesy of Tennis Canada for members and visitors to see and take photos.

Canada won its first Davis Cup last November with a finals win over Australia. The win marked Canada’s first title win after making the championship round in 2019.

The Davis Cup has been awarded since 1900, making it one of the oldest international sports trophies. There are 155 countries in contention for the title which starts qualifiers months before the playoffs.

The Thunder Bay stop is one of 30 club visits over 20 cities in Canada. The tour started on April 12 in Vancouver and will conclude on June 7 in Quebec.

“We were pretty fortunate that they were in Winnipeg two days ago. They tore it down and they had a big stop in Ottawa coming up,” said Jamie Grieve, director of tennis for the city centre. “So right in between Ottawa and Winnipeg is Thunder Bay and our clubhouse size was good enough that they get to host it. . . . They wanted an inside space and it fit into their timeline, so we’re pretty lucky. I think they said we’re one of the first small clubs that they were able to bring it two.”

The Tennis Canada contingent, which includes two reps and a security guard, take down the six-section Davis Cup before transporting it to the next city. The Cup is made from 217 ounces of silver and is nearly three feet in height. When not on tour, it’s housed in the Czech capital of Prague.

Members of the notable current Canadian team members are Felix Auger-Aliassime, Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov.

Thunder Bay tennis players and sports enthusiasts spent the late afternoon and evening taking pictures and using the interactive photo machine while asking the Tennis Canada reps questions.

However, at times the Davis Cup’s presence was overshadowed by the activity of tennis on the courts.

The centre officially opened on Monday. Grieve and his staff are using the week to take memberships, have players try out new equipment and open their doors for anyone interested in taking up the sport.

“Normally our soft open is in the middle of April or a few years ago in March,” Grieve said. “But we weren’t even able to get that (the wind-screening nets ready) by the 28th of April. One of the things that we always do if anyone wants to come down and try out.

“Just come and talk to the staff. . . . If you’re new to the sport come down and we also have some new member rates too and entice people to join.”

The local tennis community is on a high after getting approval to build a new $4 million indoor facility on the Chapples Park grounds. Preliminary work has started already.

“Obviously with the work being done on the indoor project too, we’re hoping to get that solved by fall,” said Grieve. “Everything’s moving. Yeah, so it’s gonna be good.”

Among those using the courts on Wednesday were various high school students preparing for the SSSAA season, which culminates with the city championships on May 24.

The centre’s first major tournament is the Early Bird singles and doubles over the first two weeks of June.

The Mid Canada Open — the city’s largest Ontario Tennis Association-sanctioned event — will be held July 27-30.