AUSTRALIAN tennis legend John Fitzgerald was a special guest at the Wimmera Week of Tennis launch in Haven on Saturday.
Fitzgerald won six top-level singles, 30 tour doubles titles and was a member of the winning Australian Davis Cup team in 1986.
Wimmera Week of Tennis co-ordinator Andrea Cross said a large crowd attended the launch.
“We were very pleased with the number of people who made the effort to attend,” she said.
She said crowd enjoyed Fitzgerald’s visit.
“He is such a lovely guy and was very approachable – he was happy to take photos with people, sign autographs and he gave people time and chatted with them,” she said.
“We are hoping his visit inspired people to consider either taking up tennis again or taking it up for the first time.
“It was fabulous to see all the young children having a go.
“With the equipment and resources that are available today, older people can also get back into tennis using low compression balls or racquets with shorter handles.
“There is no age barrier and we saw children playing who were under five, as well as the elderly.”
Australian Open men’s and women’s trophies were on display at the launch.
The launch also included MLC Hot Shots coaching, novelty tennis games, interactive tennis club displays, racquet giveaways, face-painting and treasure hunts.
“We had a speed serve activity, where a radar measures how fast you can serve,” Mrs Cross said.
“There was also a tennis Twister game and various Hot Shots courts.”
The launch marked the first of seven days of tennis.
Mrs Cross said tennis clubs across the Wimmera had open days yesterday.
“School is back this week and lots of schools will have a focus on tennis in the classroom and in physical-education classes,” she said.
“The week will finish with clubs organising twilight tennis matches on Friday night.”
The launch was a culmination of a major project undertaken throughout the Wimmera, which included the construction of new tennis courts at Sunnyside, Quantong, Natimuk and Central Park.
Mrs Cross said she would like to see clubs employ professional coaches in the Wimmera.
“It would reconnect people and encourage them to take up tennis – particularly young people,” she said.
“Professional tennis coach from Ballarat Peter Joyce made the journey to the launch and he had a great response from the crowd.”