Powell River’s Sonia Skobkareva is seeing her tennis star rise. After making it through a series of selection tournaments in BC in February, the 15-year-old Brooks Secondary student returned from competing at the Rogers Indoor U16 National Championships in Montreal last week, one of just 11 youth to represent the province at the competition.
This is the second time Skobkareva, who trains at Powell River Tennis Centre, has competed at the national level in less than a year. She attributes the vast improvements in her level of play to coach Gary Winter, who joined the tennis centre as head coach and director in 2018.
“Last indoor season I didn’t even make provincials,” she said. “I didn’t win a single match at selection series.”
Winter comes to the community with a notable tennis pedigree having coached the University of Waterloo varsity team as well as being head tennis pro at Waterloo Tennis Club in Ontario.
Skobkareva currently trains 10 to 12 hours a week with Winter, while also participating in a full grade-10 course load at Brooks. Her achievements are that much more impressive given her location and the lack of opportunity for her to compete, according to Winter.
“The nature of being up here [in Powell River] where it’s very isolated, there’s not really anyone else at her peer level for her to play, so it’s pretty amazing how competitive she is given the lack of actual competition she gets to play,” said Winter.
Skobkareva said she was introduced to the game by her father, tennis centre president Igor Skobkarev,when she was eight and first competed at age 10 or 11. Her future goals include getting a division one tennis scholarship to a university in the United States, she added.
“I know one girl from BC is at Yale right now on a full scholarship and another girl is at Stanford,” she said.
Possibilities such as this exist for youth in Powell River due to the calibre of coaching available to them at the tennis centre, said Igor.
“Tennis is big,” he added. “If you’re thinking about your kid’s future, it doesn't have to be hockey, there are some other big sports and that level and those opportunities are available to kids in Powell River.”
Canada is currently very visible on the world stage in tennis and that makes it seem more possible, said Winter.
“For Canadians to see the success that Canada is having on the international scene, there’s definitely a sense that ‘I could be that person, too,’” he added. “Two years ago Bianca Andreescu was playing at the nationals.”
The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, is now ranked 23rd in the world.
Although Skobkareva lost in the first round, 3-6, 6-7, she was awarded a special hat by her team for fighting so hard in her match.
Competing at nationals, she said, is inspiring.
“It's cool to see the best girls in Canada play, to see that level and how I compare to them,” she added. “It’s not like they’re astronomically better than me. It’s an edge, I just have to work harder.”