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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Evelyn Hustwit was the consummate tennis player

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Tennis meant the world to Ottawa’s Evelyn Hustwit.

And the energetic and warm-hearted Hustwit meant the world to her family, vast tennis community and numerous friends.

For 77 years, she held court with a racquet (wooden and composite), a new tin of three pressurized tennis balls, the proper whites (until coloured clothing became acceptable) and her welcoming personality.

Inge Weber and Evelyn Hustwit (Photo provided)

Whether she was playing in or winning local, national or international tournaments, giving lessons and encouragement to a player or simply enjoying the social atmosphere of the former Rideau Tennis and Squash Club, Hustwit was one of the familiar faces of tennis in Ottawa for decades not only for her on-court achievements, but also her integrity and the respect she garnered from others.

If you wanted to find Hustwit on a spring-summer-fall Saturday afternoon, all you had to do was visit the Rideau. She’d be there with a group of the city’s top male and female players trading forehands, backhands and serves. Under the direction of Leila Levy, she was part of this dedicated group for 40 years.

Hustwit passed away suddenly on Aug. 13 at The Ottawa Hospital, General Campus. Until a month before her death at 85, she was still filled with the enthusiasm and joy to play tennis twice a week.

“She loved the game. It’s as simple as that,” said Peter Hustwit, who was a great supporter of his wife’s love for tennis and her husband for 62 years.


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“She would say she wasn’t playing like she used to. She couldn’t serve overhead anymore. But she had a spiny, underhand service. She never ever wanted to give up.”

Unfortunately for Evelyn Hustwit, a month before her passing she fell and suffered multiple wrist fractures, which required a cast. She was forced to put her tennis equipment aside.

From the day she was born, Hustwit was surrounded by tennis. Her parents, John and Lesley Fulton, were Scottish national doubles champions, participated in The Championships at Wimbledon and were long-time players in county tennis.

Hustwit started playing tennis at age eight with her sister Kay and received top-notch instruction from her parents. Evelyn’s clean and smooth strokes qualified her for three Wimbledon women’s singles draws (1957, 1958 and 1961) and made her a three-time North of England junior singles champion.

In 1960, Evelyn Fulton, a physical education teacher, married Peter Hustwit and six years later they emigrated to Ottawa, where she became a tennis coach and a highly-accomplished player.

During the National Capital Tennis Association outdoor championships, the Rideau coach/player won five women’s singles and 13 doubles titles as well as seven mixed doubles finals. When she entered the senior ranks, she added another 39 NCTA titles to her resume.

At the Canadian senior and super-senior championships, which have draws for every five-year class from over-35 to over-85, Hustwit won 19 age-group titles — four in singles and 15 in women’s doubles. The national senior indoor championships were held as Eastern and Western championships and Hustwit captured 12 singles titles and four doubles finals, mostly in the East but two singles and one doubles crowns were in the West.

Internationally, Hustwit represented Canada at the International Tennis Federation seniors and super-seniors world team championships from 1985 to 2018. She won silver medals in the Kitty Godfree Cup for women over-65 with teammates and special friends Inge Weber and Muffie Grieve in 2001 and 2002.

Hustwit also was a two-time bronze medallist from the 2014 Queen’s Cup for women over-75 with Penny Goldrick and Heather Kontaxopoulos; and the 1998 Alice Marble Cup for women over-60 with Weber, Sheila Kaerin and Denise Green.

“Tennis Canada was saddened by the passing of Evelyn Hustwit, a long-time senior player,” Irwin Tobias, the senior tennis and events advisor for Tennis Canada, contributed in an email.

“Evelyn represented Canada on the world stage magnificently and with dignity throughout the years. She was a fine singles and doubles player and the consummate teammate. She will be missed, immensely.”

In the eyes of Colin McAlpin, the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club pro and 10-time Canadian singles and doubles champion over many age groups, Hustwit would be the ideal poster girl for the promotion of tennis.

“Evelyn loved her tennis,” he wrote in an email interview. “In my mind, (she) is the perfect example of how tennis can be part of your life forever to keep fit, to have fun, to compete against the best in the world and to meet wonderful people.”

Hustwit certainly won enough honours to more than fill a trophy room, but she cherished even more the many friendships she developed while playing, teaching or advocating for the game.

“Everyone who knew Evelyn loved and admired her as she was always warm and gracious, was never judgemental, accepting everyone at face value, never an unkind or mean word,” wrote Grieve, who also won 10 Canadian outdoor senior women’s doubles titles with Hustwit.

Inge Weber, Evelyn Hustwit, Shaheer Mikhail and Muffie Grieve. (Photo provided)

“I value immensely the close relationship I had with her over 40 years. Whenever I step on a court to play doubles, she is with me!”

Hustwit also captured four national senior outdoor women’s doubles championships with Weber, but they also had some classic singles matches, including one strange final.

“She was a very warm and caring person,” Weber wrote in an email. “You could show up unannounced at her doorstep and she would welcome you into her home.”

Weber also knew Hustwit for more than 40 years each.

“Evelyn was a natural player,” Weber continued. “All her strokes were effortless and beautifully executed. She never seemed to struggle.

“We had many battles on the court and they all stand out as far as I am concerned. One final we played (had) the strangest score: 6-0, 0-6, 6-0. Can’t remember who won.”

As a fair play advocate, Hustwit would have said game, set and match to Weber.

Shaheer Makhail has been a fixture on the NCTA scene for many years and has had his share of success, including winning four national senior outdoor titles and playing for Canada at ITF world senior championships.

One of his highlights was playing with Hustwit in his first ITF-sanctioned tournament at Mont Tremblant, Que., in 2010.

“We won the tournament (mixed doubles, over-65 class) and a week later, Evelyn called me and said: ‘you wouldn’t believe this, but we are now ranked by the ITF as No. 8 in the world.’ I told her that this was not possible because that was my first and only tournament in this category,” Makhail wrote in an email interview.

“Of course, it was true and we mused about that event for years.”

Mikhail had the utmost respect and admiration for Hustwit throughout their long amateur tennis careers.

“Evelyn was a very well-respected person not only because of her tennis superiority, but also for her impeccable manners and friendliness on court and outside,” he added.

Hustwit also took advantage of the Rideau club’s squash courts to become strong at another racquet sport. She was the national women’s over-35 champion in 1980 and was a member of the Canadian team to play in the first-ever world women’s squash championship in 1976 in Brisbane, Australia.

As much as she enjoyed squash and rallying with Ottawa squash great Penny Glover, tennis was always the No. 1 racquet sport in her heart. Hustwit and Glover also came together on the tennis court and were regularly seen exchanging shots this summer.

When Grieve was on the court with Hustwit, whether as her opponent in singles or partner in doubles, she would marvel at her technical skills with the racquet.

“Evelyn’s ground strokes, both forehand and backhand, were strong and accurate, her serve fluid and accurate, but her strength was her volley,” Grieve explained.

“We were always amazed at the accuracy and precision of her volleys, delivered both half court and decisively at the net. Playing doubles, she never lingered on the baseline, just advanced immediately to the net.

“This background was naturally the reason why she continued to play such a great game of tennis until the end.”

Grieve played doubles with Hustwit on numerous occasions and it was always a memorable experience.

“She was never judgmental, always encouraging, always competitive and always fair. No one would ever question one of Evelyn’s calls as she was well known to always give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ to her opponent,” she added.

During an international singles match against a South African player, Hustwit needed to track down a hard-hit, angled cross-court shot. The spectators watching the match would have called the shot out.

But Hustwit, who was focused more on getting to the ball, wasn’t sure she could give a proper assessment of whether the ball was in or out. She gave her opponent the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and called the shot in.

“Amazingly, her opponent came to the net, thanked Evelyn, said the ball was out and gave Evelyn the point,” Grieve said.

Hustwit had many redeeming qualities and this one point spoke volumes about her as the consummate tennis player.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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