Australia, 31 January 2021 | Leigh Rogers

The power of tennis to unite communities was heart-warmingly on display at Australian Open 2020.

Many of the world’s best players contributed to Tennis Australia’s Aces for Bushfire Relief initiative, helping raise more than $6 million for Australians impacted by some of the worst bushfires in national history.

Local communities continue to benefit from this generosity, with the Australian Tennis Foundation helping distribute funds through the Rally as One program.

The three-year national grants program launched at South Australia’s Kangaroo Island in November, where the Stokes Bay Tennis Club and Community Hall received $40,000 to help restore courts, clubrooms and a playground damaged in bushfires last summer.

Members of the clubs impacted on Kangaroo Island related the difficult experiences of that period.

“I think every member of our tennis club has been affected by fire in one way or another,” said Marina Gregor of the Stokes Bay Tennis Club. “It’s taken out livestock, fences, homes, cars – you name it, it’s gone.”

Alex Laver, from the Western Districts Tennis Club, explained how support from the Australian Tennis Foundation helped the community’s overall recovery.

“It’s given us stuff to play with – we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have any nets, we didn’t have anything,” he said.

“The focus, island-wide, was to get the kids playing sport again. Just (to give them) that sense of normality.”

Supporting community events, year-round tennis programs and creating leadership opportunities for youth are also priorities of the Rally as One program.

“Rebuilding homes and community infrastructure is a long and difficult road,” said Australian Tennis Foundation Executive Director Vicki Reid.

“We’ve designed Rally as One to help communities come together, celebrate community spirit and promote social cohesion, knowing they have the support of the entire global tennis community.”

Rally for One continued with visits to Yeppoon in Queensland, Cobargo in New South Wales and Mallacoota in Victoria in late 2020.

Australian tennis greats John Fitzgerald, Casey Dellacqua and Sandon Stolle joined the Rally as one visits. As they helped distribute tennis racquets to children, they also lifted community spirits by taking part in local rebuilding efforts and sharing stories from their Grand Slam-winning careers.

As he joined a team planting greenery at Cobargo, Fitzgerald noted the symbolism of new growth and was heartened by the obvious sense of unity.

“It’s obvious that the community has been rallying together,” said the former Australian Davis Cup captain. “And sometimes they need to know that outsiders are thinking of them a little bit too.”

More Rally as one community events are planned for 2021. As the Australian Tennis Foundation supports these resilient communities, Tennis Australia’s charity arm continues to inspire brighter futures through tennis too.

> Learn more about the Australian Tennis Foundation