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Female tennis players to receive paid hospitality during the Calgary National Bank Challenger

An upcoming tennis tournament in Calgary is helping close the gap between male and female athletes.

Anya Tkachyk has been playing tennis since she was just three years old.

“It’s a family sport, like my uncle, my cousin, my grandpa, they all love tennis. So, it was like whenever I was visiting family, we go and hit tennis balls and it’s just so fun,” she said.

The 16-year-old says she’s noticed it’s not always equal between men and women on the court.

“We often get paid less and we have to spend so much for accommodations and things like that, and I feel like a lot of people don’t have the facilities for that,” Tkachyk said.

The Osten and Victor Alberta Tennis Centre is trying to change that.

The organization is helping cover the cost of hospitality, like hotels and transportation, for female players participating in the 2023 Calgary National Bank Challenger this fall — something typically only the male players get.

“There’s already a disadvantage. There’s also a disadvantage in the prize money that women get versus the men, so we wanted to really focus on lowering the gap or removing that gap so that they can enjoy playing,” said Danny Da Costa, CEO of the Alberta Tennis Centre.

Young female tennis players practise at the Osten and Victor Alberta Tennis Centre.

This will be the first International Tennis Federation W60 event in Canada to do this.

“Just knowing and giving you the peace of mind that you have hospitality paid for goes a long way to keep motivating young and up-and-coming players, female tennis players, to keep competing and travelling,” said Suzana Cavalcante, head of junior development at the Alberta Tennis Centre.

Strides are also being made in women’s soccer.

The Calgary Foothills Soccer Club is joining the first Canadian women’s professional league in 2025, alongside teams in Vancouver and Toronto.

“It’s overdue to have our pro league here, and I’m just most excited for what it’s going to do for girls in sport and giving those young ones an opportunity to see a professional team in front of them and to see professional players that aren’t only men in their hometown,” said Sarah Taylor, foundation phase manager for the Calgary Foothills Soccer Club.

Young female tennis players practise at the Osten and Victor Alberta Tennis Centre.

However, there’s still a long way to go to break down barriers in professional women’s sports.

“There’s a pay gap, quite a significant pay gap in a lot of sports, but issues around sponsorships and the ways that women athletes are sponsored tend to be quite different than their male counterparts,” said Michele Donnelly, assistant professor of sport management at Brock University.

Donnelly says the conversation around women’s sports viewership needs to change.

“I think one of the refrains that we hear really consistently is, well, women’s sport doesn’t generate revenue in the same way that men’s sport does,” she said.

“When there are opportunities for people to watch women’s sport, whether that’s, you know, at the Olympic Games or through the World Cup, the viewing numbers are high.”

Tkachyk is hopeful moves like the Alberta Tennis Centre’s will have a ripple effect.

“It’s amazing to finally get the recognition we deserve,” she said.

The Calgary National Bank Challenger started as a men’s-only tournament in 2018 but began including women in 2022.

The tournament will take place from Nov. 5 to 12. 

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