Universities & colleges tennis qualifier starts this weekend at York

The road to the inaugural University & College National Tennis Championships at the Rogers Cup begins this weekend for seven York Lions players.

York Lions' Tomohiro OnoIncoming nationally ranked player Mikhail Lew and veterans Michael Gauthey, Tomohiro Ono, Matt Kuzdub, Matt Porter, Erik Salka and Alex Savtchenko will represent York at the 32-player Ontario qualifier, June 15-17, at the Rexall Centre on York’s Keele campus.

Left: Returning York Lions’ player Peng Peng lines up a shot at the Rexall Centre during the 2005-2006 season

The two finalists at the Ontario event will advance to the eight-player men’s national championship, which will take place Aug. 17-19 during the Rogers Cup professional women’s tournament, Aug. 17-19 at the Rexall Centre. An eight-player national women’s championship will also be staged on the same dates, with the Ontario qualifier slated for late June or early July.

“This is a great opportunity for a lot of young players to have a chance to play at the Rexall Centre,” said Michael Mitchell, head coach of York’s tennis teams and a member of the tournament’s organizing committee. “There has never been an event like this (for university and college players). Hopefully, down the road, it will grow into a really big national event.”

Hatem McDadi, vice-president tennis development for Tennis Canada, headed the organizing committee for the new competition that features five regional qualifiers. Ontario University Atheltics all-stars Rob Schmidt (University of Western Ontario) and Mark Renneson (University of Toronto) and several Canadians competing at American universities, including Mike Rockman (University of Buffalo) and Robert Rotaru (University of Louisville), are expected to be seeded in the Ontario qualifier.