Cowichan Bay’s own Grace Haugen took the court last Saturday alongside some of the greatest tennis players Canada has ever produced.
The 16-year-old Haugen, who holds three provincial titles, lined up with international doubles legend Daniel Nestor and Frank Dancevic, Canada’s top singles player from 2006 to 2010 and current Davis Cup team captain in a exhibition match as part of a clinic at the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club last weekend. Nestor played the first set with Haugen against national U14 champion Kayla Cross and over-50 national doubles champion Hannes Blum, and Dancevic stepped in for the second half.
Nestor and Dancevic were also guest coaches for the two-day clinic at the SCLTC, a fundraiser for youth tennis on Vancouver Island that took no time to sell out.
“Participants said it was the best thing that had happened at that club in the past 25 years,” SCLTC president David Bellis said. “We were more than pleased as a club to have put on an event of that magnitude and complexity.”
The event came about because Alden Eakins, the youngest member of the SCLTC board, is on the University of Western Ontario tennis team coached by Cameron Cross — Kayla’s dad — who also has ties to many of Canada’s top players, including Nestor, Dancevic and Denis Shapovalov.
Both stars made a great impression on clinic participants and clearly enjoyed their time. Nestor had previously been to the club — the second-oldest grass court facility in the world behind Wimbledon — when the Canadian Davis Cup team practiced there once in the 1990s.
“He remembered it quite fondly from the first time,” Bellis said.
Nestor and Dancevic learned quickly that Haugen and Cross, despite their ages, were not to be underestimated.
“I think they were a little surprised at the calibre of those girls,” Bellis commented. “They both hit some legitimate winning shots past those gentlemen.”
The next major event at the SCLTC is the Grass Court Classic on June 28-July 1.