Dancevic giving back

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

After the interview, Frank Dancevic comes across the hockey rink at the Winnipeg Winter Club and says something truly Canadian.

"Aww man, I should have brought my skates."

Dancevic, the top men's tennis player in the country, was in town for the Tennis Manitoba Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame Dinner yesterday. Proceeds from the dinner went to the Raising a Racquet for Kids program, an initiative geared toward the development of junior tennis in this province.

It's here where Dancevic, who took part in a clinic and exhibitions with fellow ATP player Philip Bester (Canadian and 2006 French Junior Open finalist) and 2000 Australian Open doubles champion Ellis Ferreira throughout the day, really displays his true nationality.

"We're travelling so much in the year, that we don't really get a chance to do things like this," said the 24-year-old out of Niagara Falls, Ont. "Giving back to the tennis community, wherever it is, is something I enjoy very much. I remember when I was a little kid, getting to meet older players was awesome. I went to the Canadian Open a few times and watching the pros play and getting close to them, it really motivated me to keep playing."

Dancevic, currently the 130th ranked player in the world after a disappointing season marred by a back injury, is an example of why tennis will continue to move forward in this country. He recognizes the responsibility he has in advancing the sport and points to a player like Daniel Nestor as part of his motivation for getting out to moderate tennis communities like Winnipeg (when compared with Toronto or Montreal) and encouraging young players.

"He's playing at a high levels in doubles but he's always given back to the sport here," Dancevic said. "I love Canada, I love this country, and I would love one day to see some future stars come from this country. That would be great, but when I first started it was a struggle. Everything had to come together perfectly for me to play this sport professionally.

"So many things can go wrong. Hopefully, we're making it easier for kids to access the sport and then stick with it."

Dancevic shares a story of how he came into tennis He was a seven-year-old hockey phenom in the winter and a soccer star in the summer, but once he had a racquet in his hand he knew what he wanted to do. He wonders how many young kids feel the same way he did at that age, and whether they have the support to keep at it.

"I had the most goals on the team, so I don't know if that means much as a seven-year-old," he laughs. "My dad introduced me to tennis one day and for some reason, it just came really natural for me. Suddenly, hockey and soccer weren't my focus anymore."

Besides raising money for the junior program, the Tennis Manitoba dinner also honoured some athletes last night.

Rick Borland, Judy Peake and Matthew Akman were enshrined into the Hall of Fame in the player category. Longtime volunteer and coach Lloyd Borland was inducted in the builder category, while Carole Carona won the Community Champion Award.

Other award winners include Kyla McNicol (female player of the year), Lee Carter (male player of the year), Kylie Waschuk (most improved player) Muzeen Ismath (Art Foster most sportsmanlike junior), and Marc Lloyd (most sportsmanlike player). Kylie Waschuk, Evann Waschuk, and Sean Bailey picked up junior scholarship awards.


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