Footsteps to the top of tennis
THE noise from the Australian Open is being heard in Clarence Valley tennis circles as a new generation of junior stars prepare to make a racket.
The Grafton Tennis Centre’s membership numbers hover around 250 for most of the year but explode every January as Open fever runs high in Melbourne.
Soccer recieved a massive nation-wide leg-up following the Socceroos’ World Cup exploits in Germany in 2006 while golf numbers are driven up during the Australiasian Tour each summer.
And with the nation’s talent cupboard nearly bare, it is a host of local players preparing to pick up the tennis slack.
Twelve-year-old Taylah Beckman was part of NSW’s runner-up showing at the Margaret Court Cup earlier this month.
Georgia Allen and Darcy Martin, both 10, were part of Country’s assault on City in the under-age carnival run in conjunction with the Sydney International.
The duo was joined by 13-year-old Jack Chard at the event while Liam Davenport reached the round of 16 at the under-14 National Tennis Titles.
Davenport’s feat was matched by Jacob Sullivan in the under-15 event.
All are aiming to one day end the homegrown Open drought, which will extend to 34 (men) and 32 (women) years if the crown stays in foreign hands in 2010.
With most junior members off competing this week, the interest means big business for Grafton Tennis Centre head coach and manager Phil Beckman.
“You find people want to come down and have a hit when the Australian Open is on,” he said.
“It definitely gets the interest going.”
Several of the club’s junior stars have previously had stints as ball boys and ball girls at the Open.
But it is not just the younger generation that is benefiting from the tennis boom.
“We get a bit of everything. We have a lot of good juniors but some older people come and have a hit as well,” Beckman said.
“Once the Australian Open finishes we get a few more. That’s when our numbers improve. We get a fair few enquiries while the Australian Open is on.
“We will usually get a few more after school goes back as well.”GRAFTON’S TENNIS TROUPE
Taylah Beckman, 12 – part of NSW’s runner-up showing at the Margaret Court Cup.
Georgie Allen and Darcy Martin, 10 – won their team’s age category at the Country v City carnival.
Jack Chard, 13 – part of Country’s under-13 winning team v City.
Liam Davenport, 14 – reached the round of 16 at the under-14 National Tennis Titles.
Jacob Sullivan, 15 - reached the round of 16 at the under-15 National Tennis Titles.