Tennis booms at the B and R

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil made it to the the second round of the 2011 U.S. Open and Thornhill’s Milos Raonic has burst onto the scene and is ranked at an impressive No. 31 in the world.

Tennis is booming in Canada.

At the Badminton and Racquet club of Toronto at Yonge St. and St. Clair ave., it is a roaring passion for the near 2,500 members.

Affectionately known as the B and R, the club opened in 1924 and offers a wide range of activities and services from tennis, badminton and squash to a classy dining lounge, gym facilities and on-site massage therapists.

According to Martin Stief, the pro shop manager, about 900 patrons are frequent tennis players. Visiting him at his office in the middle of the day, he says there are seldom times when the four clay courts offered at the club aren’t in use.

“There are currently no free courts at 2:30 in the afternoon,” he said to the Toronto Observer. “Most of these [people] have jobs and they are out here trying out for a tennis C-team.

“This is what they want to do, this is their life, playing tennis here is so important to them.”

Stief has been an employee of the club for three years and has seen the way the sport continues to keep fans and attract new ones.

He says a younger generation is always ushering in a new era on the courts.

“You play it as a kid and it’s something you can get really good at while you’re young. You play your whole life and it’s something you continue on with,” he said.

The B and R offers children’s programs beginning at the age of four and goes all the way up to a tournament for the crowd above 80 years old. Stief says the old dogs don’t miss a beat.

“We had the men’s single over-80s final. It was a group of eight people in the draws,” he said. “The match lasted over an hour in 30-degree temperature and they stayed out and battled. They had four referees watching and it was a beautiful thing.”

Eric Baldwin, head of member services and the head squash professional, is in charge of everything to do with keeping the people in the club happy. He says tennis is a family game and his job often comes pretty easy on the courts.

“[At] this club you get multi-generations where we’ll have grandparents and grandchildren playing,” he told the Observer. “One time we even had three generations on the court at the same time. They love it.”

Like all sports, tennis is a competitive and recreational activity that is usually passed down from parent to child. At the B and R, Baldwin says it’s the rich tradition of the organization that is so appealing.

“When I first came here one of the things I appreciated the most is the history, just the love and appreciation for racquet sports.”

He says that adoration is one of the reasons the members put effort into maintaining the history and they do.

“Members stay here for a long time. They usually join and basically stay for their whole lives,” Baldwin said. “Many of them have been here since they were kids and when you asked them when they joined, it’s usually their age.”

Wives and husbands, parents and children, brothers and sisters, even boyfriends and girlfriends play together on a team or against each other in heated competition but in the end it’s always fun and they always come back.

Tennis at the Badminton and Racquet club just won’t let them leave.

“It’s really a great atmosphere,” Baldwin said.