14 August 2023 | Tennis Australia

Champions have been crowned at the fourth edition of the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival (NITC) in Darwin.

Wiradjuri tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley joined Tennis NT President and Kamilaroi man Steve Rossingh to present the champions with their trophies.

Celebrating the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through tennis, the NITC was first launched in 2018 and is an annual four-day event centred around culture, community, tennis, education and wellbeing.

“I’m always so excited to come to the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival. I had such a great time connecting with all of the kids and people who have been a part of the Evonne Goolagong Foundation,” Goolagong Cawley said.

“It’s also special to present the awards at the end, because after the four days we become like family, and by being part of this event we not only play and connect through tennis, but we also learn about culture, and that makes us all stronger.”

Giselle Kawane (Cairns, Qld) and Charlie Pade (Coffs Harbour, NSW) claimed the NITC 18-and-under girls’ and boys’ titles, while Lewis Murray (Castlemaine, Vic) defended his title in the 14-and-under mixed competition.

“Playing in the finals of the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival was great. I had a wonderful match and crowd,” Kawane said.

“It’s so lovely to play on centre court and have everyone watch, especially as we are all Indigenous too, it feels more like a community and feels special. It’s so nice to see everyone here and play good tennis.”

A delighted Giselle Kawane with Evonne Goolagong Cawley after winning the 18-and-under girls’ singles final. Picture: Tennis Australia

Pade, the 18-and-under boys’ champion, described the experience as “pretty awesome”.

“It’s been a great week down here, a lot of tough matches and I’m really happy to get the win,” he said. My goals in tennis are to just keep playing, keep enjoying it, and see where it takes me … I want to get as far as I can, so will just keep training and playing hard.

“I love coming to events like this, to experience culture, it definitely keeps you more grounded, and knowing where you come from is such an important part of your life.”

Murray was thrilled to win the 14-and-under mixed event for a second consecutive year.

“It’s pretty cool to win two National Indigenous Tennis Carnival titles in a row, it feels great, but obviously an unfortunate end to the match,” he said after his opponent was forced to retire eight games into the championships match. “I feel for Ryan, but he had a great tournament, so I congratulate him on reaching the final.

“My goal in tennis is to make it to the highest level of tennis, maybe become a Grand Slam champion one day.”

The National Indigenous Tennis Carnival is a core part of Tennis Australia’s First Nations tennis pathway, which aims to provide more opportunities at all levels.

“The National Indigenous Tennis Carnival is a major part of our diversity strategy,” Tennis Australia First Nations Lead Kyah Jones said.

“We recently launched the second phase of our Reconciliation Action Plan and we’re really looking to be more inclusive and create more opportunities for Indigenous tennis.

“Prior to this week, we had 11 events leading into the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival all over Australia, including in remote communities, helping connect the event more broadly across the country, and provide more participation opportunities.”

In a special award presentation, Goolagong Cawley presented South Australian Jayden Kemp with the Evonne Goolagong Cawley Medal of Excellence for his outstanding leadership, connection, and behaviour on-and-off court.

The New South Wales team claimed the Ash Barty Cup, for being the best overall performing state on court across the participation and competitive streams.

The New South Wales team celebrate winning the Ash Barty Cup. Picture: Tennis Australia

Palmerston (NT) won the Tennis Hot Shots red-ball competition, and Queensland took out the team-based Future Stars orange-ball competition.

As part of the event, Australian Open ballkid trials were also held with 16 First Nations participants from the carnival to be selected as part of the Australian Open 2024 Ballkid Squad.

The selected players will be announced in the coming weeks.

In addition, one player from each state and territory was announced as the winner of the peer-voted Deadly Awards.

National Indigenous Tennis Carnival 2023

18-and-under championships, finals
Girls: [1] Giselle Kawane (Qld) d [2] Sophie Foster (NSW) 6-1 6-1
Boys: [1] Charlie Pade (NSW) d [2] Quincy Kahn (NSW) 6-0 6-1

14-and-under championships, finals
Mixed: [1] Lewis Murray (Vic) d [2] Ryan Bolger (Qld) 5-3 ret.

Tennis Hot Shots red-ball competition: Palmerston (NT)

Future Stars green-ball competition: Queensland

Evonne Goolagong Cawley Medal of Excellence (leadership): Jayden Kemp (SA)

Ash Barty Cup (aggregate best performing on-court team): New South Wales

Deadly Award winners
ACT: Xavier Williams-Arena
NSW: Jacob Issaoui Slade
Qld: Kelsey Weribone
SA: Malachi Varcoe
Vic: Tyrese Walsh
Tas: Hunter Richardson
WA: Mitch Durant
NT: Kimally Puruntatameri (Tiwi Islands)

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