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PISE's Bettauer and ex-teammates given place in Hall of Fame

The seeds for Canada’s rise on the courts were planted nearly five decades ago with a group that included Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence CEO Robert Bettauer

Canadian tennis is having a moment. Actually, quite a few of them with the heady generation that began with Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, and continues with Denis Shapovalov, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Vasek Pospisil, Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez.

The seeds for Canada’s rise on the courts were planted nearly five decades ago with a group that included Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence CEO Robert Bettauer.

The group included four future Canadian Davis Cup players — Bettauer, John Picken, Josef Brabenec, Derek Segal — and played together in the NCAA Division 1 with the Pan American University (now University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley) Broncs team from 1974 to 1978. The university inducted that tennis team into its sports hall of fame this month and Bettauer went down to Edinburg, Texas, for the ceremony.

“Every generation contributes to the next generation,” said Bettauer, three-time Canadian men’s champion, who went on to coach Canada in the Davis Cup and at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“We were pioneers. We contributed to building confidence in Canadian players. The lessons we learned were informed by our experience.

“We did our part to push Canadian tennis to the next level. Others built on top of that. I am very proud of what we did.”

Canada won its first Davis Cup last year in an historic breakthrough that had been building since Canada reached the final in 2019 for the first time since 1913, when the Canadian team — composed of Victoria Lawn Tennis Club players Bernard Schwengers, Bobby Powell and J.A. Foulkes — played in the final against the U.S.

“The legacy doesn’t go away. It continues — I am coaching top juniors on Bear Mountain,” said Bettauer.

Bettauer has run PISE, on the Camosun College Interurban campus, for 13 years and also provides the tennis colour commentary for Rogers Sportsnet.

The international feel of the Pan-American University tennis team in Bettauer’s time came about after coach Dennis Conner scouted the 1973 world junior championships played in Miami.

“Jose Luis Damiani [from Uruguay] set the bar high for our Pan-American University team and went onto an ATP ranking high of No. 32,” said Bettauer.

“We all looked different at the reunion but sounded exactly the same. Our reunion was filled with much laughter and friendship, which is what made us such a great team.”

Bettauer said the highlight was having their former coach Conner, now 80, join the reunion.

“Dennis Conner was the architect of the team core. The team was 3-19 the season before we got there and we went 17-6 as freshman and ended our careers as NCAA Div. 1 top-10 — No. 4 overall — in our senior year,” said Bettauer.

“We are all so thankful for the opportunity we were given and the foundation it set for our lives and careers. So many of us went on to professional careers earning ATP rankings and playing Davis Cup for our countries.”

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