Melbourne, 24 January 2011 | Tennis Australia

The worst bushfires in Australian history ignited across the state of Victoria on February 7, 2009.

This devastating event, commonly referred to as Black Saturday, claimed 173 human lives, injured 414 people and destroyed thousands of properties.

Today 13 Yarra Valley teenagers who survived these horrific bushfires enjoyed a day at the Australian Open 2011.

“It’s really special coming here, especially considering that a lot of us are from the same tennis club so we already know each other, and we have all been through similar situations [with the Black Saturday bushfires],” 17-year-old Courtney Morley from the Healesville Tennis Club said.

“We had to evacuate [on Black Saturday], but my father runs the helicopters, directing the water bombers, so we were kind of directly involved in that.

“Our [Tennis Club] facilities weren’t burnt down…But all of us here today are from all around the Yarra Valley so some of us were more affected than the others,” Courtney added.

Belinda Arnold, Youth Participation and Engagement Coordinator from the Yarra Ranges Council, helped coordinate today’s visit.

“The Yarra Ranges [council] runs summer holiday program which we try and give kids an experience of something that they wouldn’t normally do before, and particularly this group from the bushfire affected areas from 2009…Many of them have never been to the tennis before but are part of their local tennis club, so we are giving them an opportunity they normally wouldn’t have,” Belinda said.

“The group here today are all aged between 12 and 17 years and they are from the Healesville, Yarra Glen and Steels Creek area, from the tennis clubs around that area,” she added.

Tennis Australia Qualified Coach Members took the time out of their busy schedules to meet the Yarra Valley teenagers and to give them a few tennis tips as they played MLC Tennis Hot Shots, Tennis Australia’s official kid starter program at Fan Zone.