Editor’s Note: Mr. London Tennis, Anthony has been a mainstay of the city’s tennis landscape for the last 40 years. A player, a coach, a tournament organizer, and a tennis court owner, Anthony is one of the most fantastic guys.
OC: Anthony, your name has been synonymous with tennis in London for the last 25 years. How did you get involved with the sport?
My dad and I would go to East lions park and just hit. It was not until the All Canadian club came about on Highbury and Cheapside that motivated me to realize what a great sport of a lifetime this could be. Even in high school, I organized many tournaments, so I managed the Italian Open in my early teens. I’m not Italian, but we called it that where we had 18 players, most Italian. It will be the 40th year running next year. I’m proud of that
OC: What are some of the high points of your career?
What are some of the high points of your career? I was a late bloomer with no junior ranking. My highest ranking reached was 21 in the country nationally. Also, my biggest win ranking-wise was at a satellite, beating a player 300 in the world and a few others with ATP points. I have so much respect for the game, so I know how tough that is to do. As a coach, I am incredibly proud of being the University of Western Ontario men’s tennis coach since 1989, with 14 Ontario University Association titles. I am also proud of my work with national-level players Josh Lapadat, Andre Salvassy and Kayla Cross. I am also very proud of all the events we have introduced over the years, especially the now famous Italian Open in its 40th year.
OC: You built your own court in the back of your house. Why and how difficult was that?
GoodLife Fitness and tennis decided not to continue running. The operation moved down the road, and I realized how quickly we could lose a facility in London. I have been teaching for years, so I have recently built a bit of a name coaching players like Josh Lapadat, Andre Salvassy and Kayla Cross. I started thinking I couldn’t afford to create my club but could get a court in my backyard. I lived in East London all my life. I know real estate is cheaper on the east side of the tracks, so it was feasible. But I had to piecework the project to save money. I DO not have the deep pockets of some of my mentors like Pierre and Ari Novick, so I made it work.
OC: Ever thought of covering it?
Yes. As of today, the bi-laws won’t let me, or I would. It has a friendly atmosphere, so I dream of making it for elite athlete training. I have just built a fitness room where Jeff Stapleton will be helping me in my weakness in training athletes in fitness. I have developed into a competent coach when it comes to technique and strategy. Regarding fitness and nutrition, I reach out to the experts.
OC: How do you find the tennis situation in London, and what do you feel needs to happen to develop the game and create more players?
More courts. More courts, more courts. The situation in London is sad. There are not enough courts since we lost good life. Indoors five courts Greenhills. Three courts at the old hall. Again, not enough to get court time for elite training. We need a select group, so the beginners and up-and-comers have something to look up to. This is not a kiss-ass interview, but Pierre, you are one of the main reasons I am where I am today. You gave me court time in exchange for changing lights. You let my brother and I get into the pro shop business. I saw the elite athletes, which motivated me to think I could beat them. Besides the top guys like Pridham, Mcdadi and company, I got to the level I could compete with most, but that was the developed infrastructure that motivated me. It’s time London steps up and creates more year-round courts. It’s a growing sport; we need not lose great athletes to other sports.
OC: The real purpose of this interview is to provide insight to our readers on what you, as a Montreal Canadian fanatic, created adjoining your backyard court?
I am a huge believer in the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most successful franchises in sports history. I built a Habs game room. Memorabilia would be fun for many juniors to see but also teach kids the winning tradition of the Habs that will return soon. The Habs discipline. Not accepting mediocrity and respecting the game is what I used I my own business motto and everyday life. It has worked as with my limited talents and athletic ability, I have made a full-time career in tennis. This was difficult to do with my mediocre strokes, but I did it.
And for any doubters, the worst part of the Habs’ history is we have won playoff rounds the past ten years, and our rivals the Leafs, have not. [OC: Leafs won this year, but Anthony only reads Habs news]