Australia, 6 September 2023 | Leigh Rogers

Giaan Rooney is an Australian swimming champion and media personality.

She won an Olympic gold medal (as well as two silvers) and three world championship gold medals across a stellar swimming career.

Rooney has gone on to have a successful television career, working as a host, reporter and commentator with both the Nine Network and Seven Network. This has included covering many Australian Open and summer of tennis events.

She is also a mother, farmer, author, inspirational speaker and has her own athleisure clothing range.

In our Celebrity Match series, Rooney shares her favourite tennis memories …

Tell us about your tennis experience. Have you played before?

For someone who has been around tennis a lot, I haven’t actually played that much. I had lessons for a short time as a kid, but never pursued it further. Although, we are currently planning a regular social tennis competition in our local community.

What is your best shot and why?

At this stage, my best shot is getting it over the net, but every now and again, my lob really pays off.

What is your earliest tennis memory?

It may not be my earliest memory, but my mum credits tennis with getting her through early motherhood. My mum would play tennis at the local club whilst I slept in a bassinet under a tree on the sideline as a baby and once I was old enough, I would go into the crèche at the club. Mum says she got her exercise, mothers group chats and breathing space all at the same time.

Do you have a favourite tennis memory?

Funnily enough, my favourite tennis memory is when I missed watching an epic game of tennis! One of our Highland cows was having trouble giving birth on the evening of the Australian Open 2022 women’s final between Ash Barty and Danielle Collins. All my husband, Sam, and I wanted to do was watch the final, but we also couldn’t leave our cow on her own. Finally a healthy little bull calf came out. After a bit more of a struggle to feed, ‘Barty Boy’ was left to his own devices, whilst Sam and I watched the final on replay.

Do you remember the first professional match you saw live? Who played?

I can’t remember who was playing, but I think the first match I saw live would have been at Australian Open 2013 when I was working as a reporter.

You have interviewed many top-ranked tennis players. What is your most memorable interview and why?

There are so many wonderful characters in the world of tennis, but three interviews stand out.

The first was interviewing the great Roger Federer. Not only did Roger remember me from a previous interview (how many millions of interviews would he have done!?!) but was so incredibly generous with his time, respectful and friendly to every single member of the crew I was with. He became emotional when talking about his family and genuinely seemed to enjoy engaging with the media. He’s a total legend.

The second was the first of many times I interviewed the game-changing Dylan Alcott. This was at the Brisbane International and the start of his ascension to Grand Slam superstar. Dylan was forgiving when I pronounced his name wrong (I said Al-cott rather than All-cott), spoke about how he wanted to better the landscape for kids with disabilities, challenged me to return a ball to him whilst I was in a wheelchair (I couldn’t) and reminded me once again of the power of sport. I was a fan from that day on.

The third was interviewing the incredible Evonne Goolagong Cawley. I had researched Evonne heavily beforehand, as I didn’t know her story that well, and thought I had some pretty good questions that would be slightly different to ones she had been asked a thousand times. As it turns out, I barely had to ask a question as Evonne expertly led me through her history, her ‘why’, her ‘how’ and what she wanted her legacy to be. I could have listened to her speak all day and was genuinely disappointed when our time was up.

Who is your favourite tennis player to watch and why?

I used to love watching Roger Federer because it was always a tennis masterclass. I used to love watching Ash Barty, as you could almost see her overthrow her humble persona to find the warrior within. I also used to love watching Martina Hingis, as she didn’t seem to have any outstanding physical capabilities but was still such a consistent force. I look forward to watching the rise of Alex de Minaur, as he never gives up and goes after every ball, and I can’t wait to see Daria Saville return to the top of the Australian rankings as she fights back from her second major knee injury.

If you could meet any tennis player, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet Billie Jean King, who changed the game for not only women in tennis, but women in sport. I’m going to force Rennae Stubbs to introduce me one day!

Finally, can you please finish these sentences for us …

The best part of the Australian Open is … the feeling of excitement, anticipation and awe that you are witnessing the best tennis players on the planet perform at a tennis tournament they genuinely love coming to.

Tennis is fun because … you don’t need to be highly skilled or a regular player to get involved. I live in a rural community and some of our favourite events are the social tennis tournaments, where we all have a ball! Pun intended!

> Read more interviews from our Celebrity Match series

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