Decades-long Rogers Cup patrons say much has changed but intimate atmosphere remains the same

Friday, Aug 9

Brian Lejneiks and Tracy Hatanaka-Lejnieks have been able to witness the evolution of the Rogers Cup over the past 40 years.

One of the oldest tournaments in tennis, the Rogers Cup has become a signature on the schedule for the world’s best players. Brain and Tracy have been attending since the early 1980’s and say that although the tournament has grown drastically over the decades, the intimate atmosphere they fell in love with remains the same.

“In the past they would put up a temporary stadium built with lots of scaffolding,” remembers Brian. “They had lines of outdoor toilets. It was bench seating for the matches, so it was uncomfortable, and kind of rickety but we loved how close we could get to the players. Even with all the developments today, that has not changed.”

One moment that took place in the late 1980’s stands out to Brian as really solidifying his love for the tournament. It was the time he says, he was able to see his favourite player, six-time grand slam champion Stefan Edberg in action.

“He had just won Wimbledon and he was standing 10 feet from me in his doubles match,” said Brian. “That was the first tennis moment for me that made me marvel. The access we get at this tournament is why we love it so much.”

Both the Rogers Cup and the U.S. Open have become an annual tradition for the couple. Growing up as a competitive junior tennis player, Tracy spent many summers around the grounds near York University and says, even though she enjoys the U.S. Open, her heart will always be with the Toronto tournament.

“We saw Naomi Osaka at the U.S. open at Ash Stadium last year but she was just a speck on the ground, we could barely see her,” said Tracy. “I started coming [to the Rogers Cup] in the 70’s as a junior. Back then we would buy cheap tickets way at the top during the weekdays and just spend the whole day here watching Tennis. It’s lots of fun.”

Now housed in the 12,500-seat state of the art facility at Aviva Centre, the tournament has come a long way from those early days and so have Brian and Tracy. When the couple met, Brian was not particularly interested in the sport. For him, falling in love with Tracy meant falling in love with tennis as well.

“I used to just play recreationally with friends but because of Tracy’s interest, she got me into the game more,” said Brain. “I started saying I’ve got to get a better racquet. Now I need proper foot wear. We started taking lessons together. The love of my wife turned into a love for tennis.”

The couple continues to play regularly and are members of a local Toronto tennis club. Unfortunately for them they say, their passion for tennis may not have transferred to their only son Brandon.

“Being a parent who loves tennis I wanted him to learn so I brought him when he was five years old and I think I scared him away,” laughed Tracy. “He didn’t like tennis at all.”

Despite not becoming a tennis star, Brandon loved playing hockey and did end up doing pretty well for himself. He became a medical doctor and is preparing for his upcoming nuptials to his sweetheart in the next week. Although proud of his success, the die-hard tennis enthusiasts have not lost hope that their son may one day develop a passion for the game.

“His future wife is also very athletic so I can definitely see them picking it up sometime in the future,” said Brian. “Who knows, maybe one day we can all be doubles partners.”

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