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Chavez, Rice continue climb among class of Canada’s court contenders

Saskatchewan tennis players Teah Chavez and Keegan Rice
Teah Chavez, left, and Keegan Rice are leading Saskatchewan's charge to put Saskatchewan on the national tennis map and beyond.

As Gabriela Dabrowski worked toward her eventual women’s doubles championship at the 2023 U.S. Open, providing the latest in a recent string of high-profile wins for Canadian tennis players, Teah Chavez hoped out loud that she too might one day find success on the WTA tour and inspire a group of young female tennis players across the country herself.

At the provincial level, she already has.

Raised in Regina, Chavez ascended to the top 10 in Canadian women’s tennis and ranked No. 1 in Saskatchewan before moving south to attend Ohio State University for her freshman year this fall.

She finished second in singles and doubles events at an International Tennis Federation (ITF) J200 competition in Ontario earlier this year, and won an ITF J300 event in Quebec City last September. She also the recipient of back-to-back Saskatchewan Sport Awards for female youth athlete of the year in 2021 and 2022 before heading to Columbus, a status she doesn’t take lightly.

“As I go to the tennis courts I see all these little kids come up to me and say ‘you did this and this and this’ and it inspired me so that’s what I want to be because I didn’t have a lot of role models growing up,” said Chavez.

With her win in Sunday’s U.S. Open final alongside partner Erin Routliffe (who was also raised in Canada but now represents New Zealand), Dabrowski became the first Canadian woman to win a women’s doubles title at any Grand Slam tournament.

Beyond Dabrowski, Bianca Andreescu is the only other Canadian female to win one of the sport’s majors. For Chavez, who grew up playing at Regina’s Lakeshore Tennis Club, that’s meant looking for additional inspiration in international competitors as well — players like Serena Williams, Ben Shelton and Peyton Stearns.

Closer to home, she’s also taken inspiration from a fellow Saskatchewanian in Keegan Rice, who received the Saskatchewan Sport Awards youth male athlete in 2022. Originally from Regina, Rice is currently training out of Montreal with Canada’s national team.

“I’ve known the kid since I was seven years old and we’ve trained together every single day since we were 14 or 15,” said Chavez. “We lived five minutes away from each other and carpooled together as kids. The kid’s work ethic is just unbelievable. He loves tennis and is on the court like four to five hours a day.

“He loves the grind and the mental aspect of it but he’s also super family oriented and it’s really nice to see that. The fact we had Tennis Canada take him in Montreal, it’s insanely good for him.”

In spite of a stress fracture in his left foot that’s kept him sidelined in recent weeks, Rice’s journey to date also seems to be just beginning. He’s already played in junior tournaments at all four ATP Grand Slam events and is looking forward to returning to the court later this year.

“It’s pretty cool for sure, us being the first players from Saskatchewan to do the things that we have done,” he said. “Saskatchewan hasn’t always been the strongest in terms of players but now I think even more players are going to go the same way as we did and hopefully we can show them that, if we can do it and, along with great coaching hard work, the younger players for sure are able to do just the same things as Teah and I.”