Nova Scotians turned to tennis when the pandemic arrived. The numbers continue to soar

·2 min read
Raul Martinez, left, and Jorge Montes often play at the Halifax Common. Montes said he gave up the sport years ago but picked it up again when the pandemic hit.  (Anam Khan/CBC - image credit)
Raul Martinez, left, and Jorge Montes often play at the Halifax Common. Montes said he gave up the sport years ago but picked it up again when the pandemic hit. (Anam Khan/CBC - image credit)

Jorge Montes frequently plays tennis at the Halifax Common, but he often waits 30 minutes for a court.

"Tennis is honestly becoming more and more popular from when I started," said Montes, who stopped playing the sport as a child but picked it up again when the pandemic hit. "It's good to see that."

Only a few activities were allowed under the public health rules. "That's one of the main reasons I chose to play tennis again," Montes said.

There are approximately 110 courts over 72 sites across the Halifax Regional Municipality. The city allows half of them to be booked and the rest to be open for walk-ins.

Anam Khan/CBC
Anam Khan/CBC

Halifax tennis courts have seen a nearly 50 per cent increase in bookings from 1,513 in 2019 to 2,237 in 2021.

The city's capital budget this year also includes two tennis courts in Bedford.

More facilities mean more players

Kurt Kamperman, the CEO of Tennis Nova Scotia, believes it is only a matter of time before the next big tennis player comes out of Nova Scotia.

The reason is the growing interest in the game and the abundant opportunity to play it.

Launched in November 2020, the Atlantic Tennis Centre — now the Sobeys Atlantic Tennis Centre — is the only Tennis Canada centre in the country that's open to the public.

Robert Guertin/CBC
Robert Guertin/CBC
Robert Guertin/CBC
Robert Guertin/CBC

It launched with 18 courts. They average 3,500 people a week in the winter, with at least 500 new players. Hundreds of children flood the summer and winter camps.

"So we've, without question, had a couple of thousand new players in Nova Scotia pick up the sport," Kamperman said.

Eva Havaris, vice-president of participation and partnerships at Tennis Canada, said COVID has brought many people outside to play. But the popularity of tennis in Canada has also increased with professionals representing Canada on a global stage.

She said tennis clubs across Canada are reporting waiting lists for programs and lessons. She said the tennis centre provides Nova Scotia with something other provinces want.

Equipment sales

Cleve's Source for Sports in Bayers Lake supplies tennis equipment to clubs and coaches across the province, and even some in New Brunswick.

Robbie Kavanaugh, the chain's district manager and purchasing agent, said the industry uses tennis ball sales to gauge the sport's popularity. Since 2019, tennis ball sales in Nova Scotia are up by 25 per cent and tennis racket sales are up 20 per cent, he said.

"We noticed almost immediately an increase in sales in the whole tennis category," he said.

"It was a combination of people that were new to the sport and just [wanted] to get out after being locked down for so long and find something to do fitness-wise."

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