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Former tennis ace oversees growth of popular academy

Community ProfileFormer tennis ace oversees growth of popular academy

Since the age of five, Teodora Stefanovic-Dubois has loved tennis; excelling first as a top-ranked junior and eventually becoming a much sought-after coach.   

Stefanovic-Dubois, who was born and raised in Serbia, remembers becoming fascinated with the sport.

“I had a neighbor who played tennis [and] who was competing at a high level…She would pass by my house when she would go to her practice, and she would carry a big tennis bag. I remember telling my dad that I wanted one too,” recalled Stefanovic-Dubois. “After that, I begged my dad to take me to the tennis courts, but he thought I wasn’t ready because I was too young. I then convinced my grandmother to take me to the local tennis club. And soon had my first coach; his name was Zoran and he was absolutely amazing. And from the first moment I hit a tennis ball, I just absolutely fell in love with the sport.”

As Stefanovic-Dubois’ dedication and passion for tennis grew, her father took notice.

“My grandmother was taking me to the lessons at the beginning until my dad took an interest when he saw me playing once and thought I was pretty good. My dad quickly became my biggest supporter [and] would take me to the tennis courts and to tournaments [and] would become my assistant coach,” said Stefanovic-Dubois.

After moving to Brantford, Stefanovic-Dubois was poised to get back into playing competitively, but after opening her academy five years ago, she has dedicated herself to running the academy and coaching full time. Photo courtesy Stefanovic Tennis Academy.

Within a few years, Stefanovic-Dubois’ skill level rocketed.

“I reached a good level pretty fast. And then I started competing [which] I enjoyed. I played at the national level [and] I was ranked top five in Serbia. Then I started playing some professional tournaments at the age of 16. That didn’t last long because I was recruited by Lamar University in Texas and earned a scholarship,” explained Stefanovic-Dubois. “That’s where I met my husband who was from Brantford. I played there for two years, before deciding to transfer to Ferris State University in Michigan to be closer to Canada.”

After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration in 2018, Stefanovic Dubois decided to move to Canada permanently, settling in Brantford.

“When I came here with my husband; who was my fiancé at the time, I had a really hard time finding anybody to play tennis with. One day, I happened to be at the Dufferin tennis courts [and a] parent of one of the junior players saw me practice. And he approached me and asked me if I would be interested in coaching his son,” said Stefanovic-Dubois. ”I had some experience coaching when I was living in Texas, so I decided to give it another shot [and] accepted the offer. I thought that this would be a part-time job, something I would do until I started competing again or when I would find a full-time job.”

Stefanovic-Dubois eventually developed into a top-five nationally ranked junior in Serbia. However, she accepted an offer to play Division I tennis in the United States. She transferred to Ferris State University in 2016, and soon became a stand-out player among the singles and doubles positions for the program. Photo courtesy Stefanovic Tennis Academy.

When Stefanovic-Dubois took on that first client, others started to take notice.

“People at the courts would see me coach him and soon after, others started to approach me and ask if I was available for lessons [and] if I would be able to start coaching them. Within several weeks, I had close to 15 clients [which quickly] filled up my calendar,” recalled Stefanovic-Dubois.

In 2019, Teodora Stefanovic-Dubois launched the Stefanovic Tennis Academy and has became one of the most sought-after tennis academy’s in Southern Ontario. Photo courtesy Stefanovic Tennis Academy.

Stefanovic-Dubois’s coaching not only attracted the attention of parents but also the Director of Dufferin Club, who offered her a head coaching job. However, after a year of coaching at the club, she decided to move on and founded the Stefanovic Tennis Academy in 2019.

“This is our fifth year and each year, we have kept growing and growing. It has been a very exciting journey for me because we have developed many competitive players and have helped many young recreational players who were looking to advance their game. We have also been seeing more kids achieving success when taking our programs leading my academy to become well known in many tennis circles across Southwestern Ontario,” said Stefanovic-Dubois. “It’s also very exciting because kids from Brantford used to travel to Cambridge, Hamilton, and Burlington to get lessons. And now we’re getting people from all around us coming to Brantford and taking lessons from us.”

Stefanovic-Dubois has been very successful in attracting players from not only Brant County, but has grown memberships with people from all over Southwestern Ontario. Photo courtesy Stefanovic Tennis Academy.

One of the key features of the academy has been Stefanovic-Dubois’ ability to develop programs, especially during the summer period.

“We are offering one of our biggest programs during the summer. I love running those summer camps…it’s great to see so many kids at the tennis courts playing [and] new tennis players that are experiencing the game for the first time. We usually run those camps for about nine weeks during the summer,” Stefanovic-Dubois explained, “On top of that, we run both high-performance programming [and] also transitional programming; we offer active start programs for the kids that are looking to just start with the sport at any age. We offer adult programming too. So, I have to say that we have a little bit of everything. So, for anybody who would love to start tennis, we would be a good fit for them, no matter what level they are at.”

Along with leading her Stefanovic Tennis Academy, she has been busy coaching several top-ranked junior players.

“I am working with a couple of top players in Canada, [including] a boy named Sava Unchianschi who is a provincial champion in Ontario [and also] a girl named Annabelle Ganescu, who is top ten under 14. She’s playing at very high-level tournaments and I’m very excited about her success…those two players are my top players but I do have a lot more very successful players that I am looking forward to helping get to the next level,” said Stefanovic-Dubois.

Stefanovic-Dubois has thrived as a coach and trainer, helping many younger players compete and succeed at high levels. Photo courtesy Stefanovic Tennis Academy.

Along with offering a rich schedule of tennis programming, Stefanovic-Dubois has expanded to pickleball to meet the demand of this popular sport.

“We’re currently expanding due to all the successes that we have had with tennis, but we’re also expanding to pickleball as well. We are now hiring pickleball-certified coaches. And I will be overseeing all the programs in the older leagues,” stated Stefanovic-Dubois.

While only a few years ago, Stefanovic-Dubois had a plan to get back and play at some professional tournaments, her desire to coach won out.  

“I loved playing and competing, but coaching for me was on another level…because it’s that feeling you get when you’re helping somebody; seeing them progress and get better. This was even more satisfying than winning yourself,” admitted Stefanovic-Dubois. “I never thought that that was going to be the case, because from a very young age I wanted to be a professional tennis player, there was no plan B [and] I was so competitive. The fact that I started coaching was completely unimaginable for me at the time. And now I love coaching so much.”

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