The Friendly Giant
Tony Bardsley, the friendly giant came from a great Vancouver tennis family who was ever present in the BC tennis community. Tony was a Canadian Singles Champion and three times doubles Champion. He was part of the first Canadian team regrouping at UBC under the direction of former Davis Cup player Paul Willey. On that team were Don McCormick, Keith Carpenter, Barry Shakespeare, Bob Bardsley, Bob Moffat, Cam Dalgleish, Vic Rollins, Alan Skelton and Pierre Lamarche. Tony played in seven ties for Canada.
OC: What do you remember from your Davis Cup experience?
TB: We were playing in Kingston, Jamaica, and The crowd was hostile. Don McCormick was playing Richard Russel (and winning); Don came to change ends and said to both me and Captain Don Fontana: “A guy in the audience just told me he has a gun and would shoot me if I win! “I, of course, looking out for our team told Don, “Not to worry the guy is just kidding! He doesn’t have a gun” Don went on to win and was not shot!
OC: What about the win?
TB: Winning the Davis Cup is just the ultimate win for Canadian Tennis, we had to have 2 outstanding players and a good doubles team, which we have. I am very proud to be a Canadian tennis player!
The Old Man
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Power held the best singles Davis Cup record by winning percentage (6–2) of any Canadian player. Power also has the distinction of having played in the longest set in Davis Cup history, a second set won by Colombian Álvaro Betancourt 24-22 in a match won by Power in 5 sets in a 1976 tie.
DP: Not until I was about 17 after winning the U18 Junior Championships did I fantasize, with ever playing on Canada’s Davis Cup Team. It was in 1967. My future as a professional athlete was focused on Hockey and making the NHL. I was selected by The St Catharines Blackhawks Hockey Team in 1967, traded to the Peterborough Petes in 1968, and drafted by The Montreal Canadians in 1969. Tennis was a passion and a sport I loved to play in the summer. Remember, ATP and money per round, plus a point system for ranking had not been invented. The biggest international arena was The Grand Slams, and Davis Cup. Financially, tennis was not very attractive. Upon departing Hockey and accepting a tennis scholarship to OCU in 1970, did I seriously consider playing Davis Cup.
There were many highlights for me during Davis Cup play. My first year on the team was in 1972. I trained exclusively with Mike Belkin for three weeks and played doubles on National TV against Mexico. We lost a close one in four sets. I played on seven teams, but the most memorable was my first singles match, at The Rockland Tennis Centre (Montreal). It no longer exists. My opponent was Alvaro Betencur of Columbia. We set a Davis Cup Record, which will probably never be broken. The record occurred in the second set. After I won the first set and served at 5-3 for a two-set lead, Alvaro broke my serve and our Marathon set began. I never served again for the set, and we battled for about the next 2 and 1/2 hrs, in which I succumbed to a 22-24 loss. I was exhausted mentally. At 2 all in the third I tanked the third set. I was very depressed. We had a twenty-minute break before beginning the fourth set. I had a quick shower, ignoring the technical advice from the Tennis Canada Execs. As if I would change my technique, after three hours of match play? Just before returning to the court to play the fourth set. The team’s hitting partner ( Mr. Mark Cox of England) a former great player and a perfect gentleman. Provided me with a straightforward strategy, for the remainder of the match. He said ” You have proven you can hold serve with Alvaro; after all, you went 22-24 in the second set. Hold your serve for the next two sets and see what happens. I won the next two sets 6-3, 7-5, therefore winning the match. The match took 5 and 1/2 hrs, finishing at 2:30 am. I never forgot Mark’s advice for the rest of my career.
Canada winning the Davis Cup is a Milestone I thought I would never see in my lifetime. A wonderful accomplishment! To win a Davis Cup Tie is usually the result of a good doubles team. Thank You Mr. Pospisil for providing Canada with your excellent Davis Cup play these past years. The only negative on our conquest was the default of the Russia team from Davis Cup Play.
Don McCormick was a Canadian Junior champion ranked in the top 10 in Canada for eleven straight years. He was the top ranked Canadian in 1974 and became the World Over 45 ITF Singles champion in 1991.
OC: What did you think of Davis Cup?
DM: We played on tour in the 1970’s when open tennis was just starting and prize money not sufficient to play full time. My main goal was to play Davis Cup for my country.
OC: Memory from Davis Cup:
DM: My 2nd tie was against Jamaica and Richard Russell, a strong international player. We played indoors on a polished cement floor in Kingston. The first set went 30-28 and the second 12-10! No wonder tennis went to tiebreaker sets a few years later!
OC: What about Canada’s recent win?
DM: It is tremendous that we have such great world-class players now able to capture Canada’s first Davis Cup. The coaching and training system that Canada has now will keep us at the forefront of tennis for the foreseeable future. I am very proud to have been part of that Davis Cup tradition that has carried Canada to such heights!
Rejean played for Florida State University ( 1970-1974 ), became the first Canadian player to achieve a top 100 ATP rank and played Davis Cup for 9 years between 1974 and 1983. He played a total of 27 matches and was inducted in the Canadian Hall of Fame in 1999. Even more remarkable is his stay at the head of the Quebec Tennis Federation for 33 years
OC: What did you think of Davis Cup?
RG: When i was young, the ATP circuit did not exist, so my biggest tennis dream was to play Davis Cup for Canada. In those days, it was the highest honour for a tennis player to represent his country in this prestigious competition.
OC: What is your most vivid memory about Davis Cup?
RG: In 1975, l played 14 sets in 3 days in a tie against Mexico in high-altitude Mexico City. We lost 3-2 and i lost the decisive match 7-5 in a 5th set against Marcello Lara. On match point, I lost the match on a bad line call. The referee did not overturn the call because the Mexican fans had already jumped on the court to congratulate Lara .
OC: What about Canada’s win?
RG: Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that Canada could one day win the Davis Cup title. Unbelievable and outstanding achievement!
From Dream to Reality
Pierre Lamarche’s only Davis Cup participation was a doubles loss against Mexico with partner Regean Genois. A former junior and men’s Canadian champion, he played and coached at Mississippi State University while being part of the third-ranked NCAA division 1 school. The Bear followed his short playing career in facility management and coaching. The All-Canadian Academy, now known as Ace Tennis has developed players who have won over 200 national championships and received over 150 US scholarships. His contribution to Davis Cup was more as the captain of the teams that made it to the World Group for the first time in 1990’s.
PL: I have to admit that Davis Cup was always a dominating dream I had with tennis. I played for Canada two months after I had retired after winning the Canadian Championships. Eventually, the opportunity to captain the team was the most incredible honour I have received. [Thank you, Robert]
My Davis Cup dream started when I was 9, spending the summer in Three Rivers with my grandparents. I watched my first tennis match on a black and white TV screen, a Davis Cup encounter between Canada’s young Paul Willey and Barry Mackay of the US. It was late afternoon as the match was played in Victoria on grass. Paul Willey [my future National Team Coach at UBC] played an unbelievable 5th match [US had won the tie leading 4-0] and beat Mackay [future US #1] 14-16, 6-4, 6-3, 8-6. The match was dominated by the diminutive Willey serve, who served an unbelievable number of aces [could not find any statistics].
The six degrees of separation with the individuals who participated in this July 27-29, 1956 Davis Cup encounter between the US and Canada are interesting. Canada’s star was the great Bob Bedard, a family friend I had the chance to train with at Bishop’s College in Lennoxville while babysitting his young sons, who are still part of the Canadian tennis landscape. Team member, and Hall of Fame member, Don Fontana became my Davis Cup captain. Years later, the US star Ron Holmberg lived at my house in Montreal and helped guide me to Mississippi State University. Finally, Canada’s captain was Jim Skelton, whose house I lived at in West Vancouver with Hall of Famer Keith Carpenter.
After the Willey match, I took my racquet to hit against the wall, drew the outline of a court in the gravel and played Bob Bedard. Bob was not his steady self and hit many balls outside the boundaries. My life record against Bob on the wall is spotless, never having lost a match over two years. Unfortunately, life was different, never won a set, even in practice.
That enchantment with Davis Cup after the Willey match led to my lifelong love of the sport, especially Davis Cup. To see Canada’s team led by Frank Dancevic, whom I have known since he was 11, Denis, Felix, Vasek, Gabriel and Alexis, whom I have seen growing up, and the tremendous Canadian support team with the Davis Cup was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Canada, Davis Cup Champions.
Canadian Junior and Men’s Champion
Jim was a highly successful junior player winning five National junior titles. The captain of the Mississippi State Tennis Team won 32 national championships. For ten years Jim was the tennis Director of The Toronto Lawn Tennis Club. In 1997 he vbecame the executibe director of the Ontario Tennis Association before becoming president. He is presently working to develop a multi-court and indoor facility to help service the needs of Ontario players.
OC: What was your highlight in Davis Cup?
JB: My Davis Cup highlight was playing the opening match against the Caribbean in Ottawa against John Antonis in 1976 whom I had never beaten and winning in 3 straight sets.
OC: How about Canada’s win?
JB: It is wonderful to see Canada capture the Davis Cup title and know that the Ontario Tennis Association had a huge part in that success.
Quebec’s former Minister of Sport
Richard was a graduate of Florida State University. He served as the tournament Director for the Open in Montreal and eventually became Minister of Sport for the Province of Quebec.
RL: I played 90 minutes in Davis Cup, in doubles only, and I have been talking about it for forty years!
As for Canada winning the Davis Cup, please don’t wake me up!