AUSTRALIAN OPEN RETURN - A PERSONAL JOURNEY
Tuesday, April 4
Sometimes seeing an old friend after many years absence can be daunting, what to expect, have they changed, have you changed to much to reconnect. In this case I can safely say returning to Australian Open tennis 2023 after 35 years of non attendance, brought satisfaction on many levels. My love affair with tennis goes way back to 1970, when I first saw matches from Wimbledon on TV whilst holidaying in England as an 8 yr. It mesmerized from that moment on. Safe to say that moment set me on a path that has revolved around tennis my whole adult life.
One of my favourite memories of tennis at Riverview was being selected as a ball boy along with Brian Ingham for the Australian Indoor Championships, held at the Hordern Pavillion in 1975. We were ball boys for the likes of Jimmy Connors, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall, John Alexander, Stan Smith and the last winner of the Australian Open Mark Edmondson!! Idols of mine since I started playing tennis,
especially Mr Ken Rosewall!
Along the way I was fortunate to be selected Captain of tennis at Riverview in 1980, the Centenery year and my final year there.
The firsts were managed by Mr Keith Saines, one of the great teachers of our era back then. He was like us, young at heart, though with great wisdom he willingly imparted to anyone with his sphere of influence. Back then tennis was a poor cousin to the much more favoured sports such as rugby, rowing and cricket. This was not to say we competed with great fervour against the other competing colleges. From memory we had a mixed season finishing in the top 4.
Leaving school, I was given the opportunity to train overseas in Tampa Bay, Florida USA. Training at the famous courts of our great Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman. Stayed there for 2 years before coming home to the Hills District. Having had aspirations of competing professionally, I decided to take up an offer to coach locally (Hills District) for a short period, but in the end it morphed into a
lifetime of teaching tennis. This has allowed me for all these years, and to meet, teach and influence people of all ages about the joys of tennis. A sport for a lifetime. The life of a tennis coach is varied and different to any 9 to 5 job.
Early mornings, and late nights fit the bill, one of the benefits is maintaining a fairly fit body and hopefully an alert mind.
Tennis has allowed me to work up close and personal with many of the champions of the last 40 years. My involvement with Tennis Australia has seen me work as a courtesy car driver back in the early 80s looking after stars such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and many more. I been privileged to interview many players as part of my role of fan fast host at the old Sydney International at Sydney Olympic
Park, during the early 2000s. And more recently, I have acted as player concierge for the players in house as part of the ATP Cup and this year the United Cup, spending 14 days at a time looking after the players needs. Players this year including Rafael Nadal, Alex De Minaur, Iga Swiatek, Matteo Berretini and many more.
Tennis has taken me around the world, for which I am grateful. And part of that is being a spectator now. Returning this year to the AO 23 Grand slam brought back many memories, one of them, being last there in 1988, 35 long years ago. You may ask why such a long hiatus, even I cant venture forth with a concrete answer.
1988 was the first time that tennis was played on the new centre, which built at and was known then as Flinders Park. The AO has grown immensely and that shows in everything at the centre. The crowds, the facilities such as the courts which are now blue, not green. The 3 stadium courts all with roofs, the activities offered are plentiful and varied, the food vendors reflect Australian multi-culturalism.
As do the players coming from all corners of the world for what is the first grand slam of the year. Yes I enjoyed the theatre of what tennis has become, an all embracing world sport, played by millions. And Im proud to be part of the story which is the sport of tennis.
And the spectacle of what the AO offers is beyond amazing, so do yourselves a favour for next year. Pencil in the dates for a trip to Melbourne to be part this. Dont leave it as long as I did for goodness sake.
SIMON KEOGH OR80