First round matches begin on Thursday, June 16th and the competition culminates in the Quad Singles and Doubles Finals, Men’s Main Draw Singles and Doubles Finals and the Men’s Consolation Finals on Sunday, June 19th starting at 10:00am. An exhibition of this exciting sport will be taking place on Saturday from 10:00 am until noon.
ORC General Manager, Jeff McCarrol is enthusiastic about the event: “We at ORC are honoured to host this tournament and have this unique opportunity to showcase wheelchair tennis and the top notch athletes who play this sport. We extend our thanks to Tennis Canada, ITF, Scotiabank and, of course, the Birmingham Family for their commitment and sponsorship to make this a first class event.”
These athletes are already attracting an interested and inspired audience. Their enthusiasm for the sport is infectious, and the level of play has impressed the club’s tennis constituent.
ORC staff and members are excited about the on-court action taking place at their club this week, but they might already have a local favourite in mind to win the title. ORC member (and Mississauga resident) Billy Bridges, 25, will be taking part in this prolific event. Bridges suffers from spina bifida, but he has not let this stop him. At age 12 he began playing ice sledge hockey for the Kitchener Sidewinders. Two years later he was the youngest player ever to be selected for Canada's national team. He has World Championship golds from 2000 and 2008, and Paralympic gold from 2006, where he was picked for the All-Star Team.
Bridges also has a career as a wheelchair basketball player. He has won seven Canadian titles with Team Ontario. In 2001, he also completed at the Junior World Championships, and in 2005 was selected as the team's most valuable player (MVP). He was a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002, is a spokesperson for Right to Play, and was honoured this year as Mississauga’
Playing at the top level in two sports was clearly not enough for Bridges, who took up tennis about a year ago. Ask him about tennis, and his eyes light up: “I’m just addicted to it”, he beams, “it’s such a great sport.” Billy even admits to skipping hockey to play tennis! Billy has been training hard in preparation for this week’s tournament, and hopes to impress the home crowd.
Toronto resident and Canadian number two in the sport, Joel Dembe, 27, is also competing in the tournament this week. Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Dembe took up the sport at the age of 14, and soon became the country's top junior player. He currently resides in Toronto and trains at Rexall Centre in York University. Dembe has won singles and doubles events in Florida, Michigan, Ottawa, Windsor, Vancouver, and Dallas. Furthermore, he has represented Canada at events in Italy, Great Britain and France. He is currently training for the 2012 Paralympics in London and aims to finish the season as new number one ranked player in Canada.
In addition to the Birmingham Canadian Wheelchair Tennis Classic, ORC is also hosting an ITF Pro Circuit Futures Tournament (with $15,000 in prize money up for grabs) from July 16-24th, as well as the Rogers U18 Junior National Championships from August 7th to 12th, 2011.
For more information on the Birmingham Canadian Wheelchair Tennis Classic or the other top level events ORC is hosting this summer, please contact ORC’s Tennis Manager, Jennifer Naumauvski at 905.822.5240 (ext 250).
# # #
Established in 1975, ORC is Canada's leading family health, wellness and sports club. Located on the Oakville/Mississauga border and covering over 150,000 square feet and 8.5 acres, ORC is so much more than a racquet club. It's a lifestyle!