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Kelly Murumets is named president and chief executive officer of Tennis Canada

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MONTREAL - Kelly Murumets calls herself a mediocre tennis player who loves the game.

Now she will get to run what may be Canada's hottest sport.

The Toronto resident was named president and chief executive officer of the sport's national governing body Tennis Canada on Friday.

She hopes to use the growing popularity of tennis to get more people playing at the local courts and to develop more Milos Raonics and Eugenie Bouchards.

"We have experienced unbelievable success in the last number of months and years," she said. "If we can continue to build on that success, I think we can inculcate a culture of tennis in this country.

"It's really getting the children and youth of this country playing on courts in their neighbourhoods, just picking up rackets and playing. It's really changing the culture of Canada."

A lot of the president's job is finding sponsors and raising money to finance programs across the country that may produce the next tennis stars, as well as running the Rogers Cup and other tournaments.

She couldn't have walked into a better climate for that.

Canadian tennis is on a high, with Raonic's rise to a career-high 10th in world rankings (the Thornhill, Ont., resident is currently 11th) last summer, and with Vernon, B.C. native Vasek Pospisil not far behind at 30th. They helped Canada's Davis Cup team reach the world group semifinals in 2013, their best performance of the modern era.

On the women's side, 19-year-old Bouchard Montreal had fans on the edge of their seats as she battled into the semifinals of the first grand slam event of the season in Australia this week. TSN reported more than four million watched the 2012 Wimbledon junior girls champion's semifinal loss to China's Li Na.

That sparked a run of ticket sales to see Bouchard and the Canadian women's team face Serbia in a Federation Cup tie Feb. 8-9 at the 4,000-seat Claude Robillard Centre in Montreal.

"There is no more exciting time for tennis in Canada than right now, and wow, I get to be part of the team that will take Canada to the next level — to the moon," she said.

Murumets was introduced to the media by Tennis Canada chairman John LeBoutillier at Uniprix Stadium, which is part of the national training centre that helped produce Raonic, Bouchard and others.

The centre opened in 2007 under former president and CEO Michael Downey, who announced in September he was stepping down to become chief executive of the prestigious British Lawn Tennis Association. He took over that job officially on Jan. 6.

A search committee found Murumets, who was president of ParticipAction, an independent non-profit organization that supports healthy and active living for Canadians.

Murumets looks to have plenty of enthusiasm. She has no specific projects in mind, but will spend her first weeks learning about the organization and seeing what can be done.

Her goals are "getting more tennis rackets in more hands more often, continuing to deliver world class tournaments and developing the talent that makes us all so proud to be Canadians. Beyond that, the (Tennis Canada) team will help me understand where we need to focus."

Before he left, Downey had hoped to start a national membership program for tennis players, and to land a tournament for Vancouver to go with the Rogers Cups in Montreal and Toronto.

"We were looking for a person that would bring leadership and who would develop quickly a passion for tennis, whether he or she was a tennis player or not," said LeBoutillier. "And someone who wasn't coming for a year or two and then moving on to something else.

"The hiring process went very smoothly and the committee made a unanimous recommendation to the board about a week ago."

Murumets will officially begin her new position on March 3. In the meantime, she plans to spend a week playing and taking tennis lessons in Arizona.

She comes armed with a load of university degrees — a BA from Bishop's, a masters in social work from Wilfrid Laurier and an MBA from Western. She recently resigned from the board of governors at Bishop's.

She was also president of a telecommunications company before joining ParticipAction.

"I wanted to change the world," she said of her social work studies, adding that she returned from private business to not-for-profit organizations because "I believe we can change the world.

"We have a chance to inspire Canadians to be more physically active — to pick up a racket and play."

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