13 December 2010 | Tennis Australia

A lucky group of students today had the chance to play with some of their tennis heroes on the courts of Melbourne Park, as winners of the December Showdown Schools Experience.

Throughout the Showdown, children from across Melbourne have flocked to the tennis to learn about the game, watch matches and hear from some of the best talent in the country at the home of the Australian Open.

Excited children from Berwick Chase Primary School joined a host of Australian stars including Alicia Molik, Jelena Dokic, Olivia Rogowska, Peter Luczak, Sam Groth and Australian tennis legend John Fitzgerald on court in a number of modified tennis games and challenges.

Also stopping by were former players and current coaches Nicole Pratt and Todd “Teddy” Woodbridge, plus a selection of tour professionals and juniors that included Adam Feeney, Mark Verryth, John Millman, Monika Wejnert, Jade Hopper, Nina Catovic and Ashling Sumner.

Highlights included a competition final between Rogowska and Luczak, who won amongst much enjoyment from onlookers.

Students were treated to a guided tour of the Melbourne Park facilities and 30-minute rotations on-court with the players.

After the tennis action, the students were given the opportunity to ask players about their careers and the life of a professional tennis player.

Berwick Chase Primary teacher Katie Mann said that coming to Melbourne Park was a thrill for the children even before winning the chance to play on court with the stars.

“I think the kids have had a fantastic time already. I don’t think they’ve even come to city that often, so I think the whole experience of meeting players and getting to play with them on court is quite a good experience for them,” she said.

Mann noted that while tennis sometimes fell behind soccer as a favourite pastime amongst the students, the experience had boosted the awareness and enjoyment of the sport.

“I think after today it might become more popular.”

Former Davis Cup captain Fitzgerald highlighted the importance of exposing tennis to a new generation.

“It’s great for the kids. You’ve got to introduce them to the sport, and this is an easy way to do it,” he said.

“With softer balls, they can control [them] more and this is the way to get them interested.”