Melbourne, 19 January 2011 | Tennis Australia

Melbourne school girl Rachael Martin had the experience of a life time today when she went backstage at Australian Open 2011.

Nine-year-old Rachael won the chance to walk the corridors of Rod Laver Arena during an MLC Tennis Hot Shots Red Ball Challenge event at Melbourne Park during December (11-12 and 18-19).

Rachael was one of 96 children from around Victoria participating in the MLC Tennis Hot Shots round-robin style teams’ event, and her name was the lucky one to be drawn to win this prestigious and highly sort after prize.

“My coach Gary [Leech of Velocity Tennis Coaching at the Knox City Tennis Club in Wantirna South] invited me to a MLC Tennis Hots Shots event before Christmas and I won this prize, and I was really excited,” Rachael said.

MLC Tennis Hot Shots is Tennis Australia’s official kid starter program which is designed for children aged five to 12 years.

Whilst on her Australian Open Backstage tour, Rachael rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s top tennis players, and visited the Media Centre and main press conference room, as well as walked past the Players’ Cafe and change rooms and went to the Australian Open Radio Booth on court level to watch Andy Roddick play on Centre Court.

“Andy Roddick is playing about three or four metres away from me now,” Rachael expressed.

“I may like to be a professional player too one day.”

Rachael then ventured to Fan Zone in Garden Square where she had the opportunity to showcase her tennis skills when she teamed up with Australian favourite Bernard Tomic, a wildcard entry into the season-opening Grand Slam event, for a hit of MLC Tennis Hots Shots on the modified kid sized courts.

“I was Bernard’s doubles partner so we had to take it in turns to hit the ball,” Rachael said. “

We beat our opponents some times.

“I had a lot of fun with him; he is one of my favourite tennis players. I watched him play yesterday and he won, and I hope he goes well in his next match. It was really fun playing with him and he is really nice.”