BY DIANE W. DIMMER VIA THE O.T.A
The last Canadian woman to win the Canadian Open (now National Bank Open) before Bianca Andreescu was Faye Urban Mlacak in 1969. Diana Dimmer remembers her long-time friend as a player and a person.
In November last year we lost one of Canada’s greatest tennis stars. Faye Urban Mlacak died on November 11, 2020 after a lengthy illness with cancer.
Faye was a natural at tennis. She was a gifted player who had a great love for the game throughout her life. Even though Faye retired from competition in 1970 at 25 years of age, a few of us were lucky enough to persuade her to play in some doubles events in Toronto years after she retired. Faye always amazed us with her skills and how she could time the ball so well. I was fortunate to enter the over 35 Ontario Senior Tennis championship with Faye in 1995 and was delighted to have a win with her.
Faye grew up in Windsor, Ontario. She credited her father, Archie Urban, with nurturing her interest in tennis and her early development in the sport. Archie taught himself how to play tennis and gained insights into the sport by studying a book written by Pancho Gonzales. Archie started hitting tennis balls with Faye at a local public court in Windsor when she was 7 years old. Faye’s father was creative, designing different tennis aids to assist Faye in her stroke development including fusing a large metal mallet on the frame of a wooden Dunlop Maxply racquet.
Faye was a strong athlete who was also good at basketball and played on the high school team in Windsor. She picked up tennis easily and quickly excelled at the game. At the age of 10, in 1956, Faye won the Ontario Junior Girls under 13 singles championship and the Western Ontario Girls under 13 and under 15 titles. Faye spent significant time away from home as a junior playing in tournaments and developing her game. Those in the tennis world quickly recognized how talented she was.
Faye went on to win many more provincial and national junior championships including the Canadian Closed under 18 junior girl’s singles championship in 1962 and 1963. Faye was also an excellent doubles player and won many junior doubles championships often playing with Brenda Nunns. Faye had her first overseas trip in 1963 when she was 17, playing at different tournaments in England including junior Wimbledon.
The life of a tennis player and the prospects of a Canadian playing tennis for a living were very different in the 1960s. There were no indoor courts in Windsor which limited a player’s ability to play year-round. Indeed there were very few indoor courts across Ontario. The level of financial support for top players at that time was also very different from today. Players did not have dedicated coaches like they do now and had to make their own arrangements getting to and travelling at tournaments. The equipment too was very different. Those of us who played at that time will remember using wooden racquets which were heavier than today’s modern graphite composite racquets.
Faye was an exciting player to watch and played an aggressive game. She was known for having an outstanding forehand which was a formidable weapon. After her years playing junior tennis, Faye transitioned into playing tennis more on a year-round basis. She had an opportunity through friends to spend time in California where Faye worked on her game with Louise Brough. Louise Brough was an American multi-grand slam winner who retired from tennis around 1957 and started teaching tennis in California.
Faye was very active in tournaments in Canada and internationally in the 1960s. Faye was a member of Canada’s Federation Cup Team in 1963 and from 1966 to 1970. She competed at Wimbledon during these same years. Faye played many tournaments in the United States and in England and also played in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and several other countries. In 1967, Faye and Vicki Berner got to the Quarter Finals in Women’s Doubles at Wimbledon and won a bronze medal in the Pan Am Games.
“Billie Jean King and Margaret Court were my contemporaries and it was a grand experience.”
For the full article by Diane W. Dimmer, visit the OTA’s ONTENNIS
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