By Martin Cleary
When Pierre Tafelski was eight years old, he had one of those awe-inspiring moments.
He travelled to the French Open in Paris from his hometown of Nantes, France, to view the Davis Cup trophy, which is emblematic of men’s team tennis superiority.
“I did see it in person and I have a photo. I was very excited when I saw it in person. It was very inspiring. It was much bigger than I thought,” said Tafelski, who watched the opening two singles matches of the 1996 Davis Cup semifinal in Nantes. France went on to defeat Italy 3-2.
France celebrated its eighth Davis Cup victory that year (the country has now won it 10 times), turning back host Sweden 3-2 in Malmo.
“I’m happy to see it a second time in the hands of Canada,” added a proud Tafelski, who went on to become a American university player and coach before arriving at the Rideau Sports Centre.
Tafelski will revisit the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy, which was founded in 1900 and is presented annually to the Davis Cup champion country, when it will be showcased at the Rideau Sports Centre on May 8.
That will be the third and final day the trophy can be viewed by Ottawa and area tennis and sports enthusiasts. In early April, Tennis Canada started its cross-Canada tour of tennis’ iconic team trophy. The trophy will travel to 23 cities in all 10 provinces, ending in Montreal on Aug. 13.
The Davis Cup trophy tour will make its first Ottawa stop at the Tennis Centre West Ottawa on May 6 and will move May 7 at the Rockcliffe Lawn Tennis Club.
In an historic achievement, Canada won its first-ever Davis Cup championship last year in Malaga, Sapin, when it defeated Germany 2-1 in the quarterfinals, Italy 2-1 in the semifinals and Australia 2-0 in the final.
The Canadian team of players Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, ON., Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., Alexis Galarneau of Laval, PQ., Gabriel Diallo of Montreal and team captain Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, ON., made Canada the 16th country to have its name inscribed on the Davis Cup trophy.
As the Rideau Sports Centre tennis director, Tafelski can’t wait to reconnect with the famous tennis trophy and have the club’s junior and adult members also experience it.
“It’s historical. We’re very fortunate,” Tafelski added. “It will be inspiring for our junior players. We have one of the largest junior programs in the region. Our coaches will take the players to the trophy and it will inspire the next generation.
“Having it in Canada’s capital is very meaningful. We’re very humbled.”
The trophy will be on view in the Rideau Sports Centre’s multi-sport dome from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public is welcome to take photos of the trophy or have their pictures taken with the trophy. Fans are encouraged to share photos on social media with the hashtags #DCChamps22 and #CoupeDavisChamps22.
There also will be events surrounding the viewing of the Davis Cup trophy, but they haven’t been finalized at any of the three Ottawa tennis clubs.
This year will be one of celebration at the Tennis Centre West Ottawa.
Besides playing host to the Davis Cup trophy, the club is making preparations for its 100th anniversary party at the end of June.
The Davis Cup trophy will be open to the public for viewing on May 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Interested tennis fans can take photos of the trophy or be part of photos with the trophy.
“It’s a really nice way for our members and the tennis community to come together to celebrate the first time Canada has won the Davis Cup,” Tennis Centre West Ottawa general manager Kate Holzhuter said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Tennis Centre West Ottawa and its centennial committee haven’t finalized their plans for the three-day 100th anniversary celebration, which is being supported by the National Capital Tennis Association, Tennis Canada and the Ontario Tennis Association.
On its website, the club is looking for old photos, trophies, wooden racquets and awards from its past to be put on display. The club also is interested in contacting past members as well as hearing stories about its history.
The centennial event schedule could include a retro round-robin tournament, exhibition matches, a retro costume contest and tennis fair activities as well as food, drinks and music, according to its website.
The Rockcliffe Lawn Tennis Club is “still finalizing the details of what we’ll be doing that day (May 7),” club president Laurie Maybury wrote in an email.
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Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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