Japanese youngsters have ventured halfway around the world to play in the Victorian Grasscourt Championships which started in Wodonga yesterday morning.
Eleven players, all under 12 years old, will play in the local tournament which was recently granted a gold ranking by Tennis Australia.
Japanese tennis coach Toru Matsushima said he hoped his group learnt a lot by playing in Australia.
“This is a really good experience for them,” Matsushima said.
“Everything is new and different here and they have come from all over Japan, so the experience is very good for the children.
“Japanese and Australian tennis is different.
“We don’t have grass courts, and a lot of the players here are very big and play more aggressively.”
Matsushima said the rise of Kei Nishikori on the men’s professional circuit had raised the bar for tennis in Japan.
Nishikori is ranked 17th in the world, but was as high as 11th in the middle of last year.
“He is very popular, but a lot of Japanese children really like Lleyton Hewitt also,” Matsushima said.
Matsushima was very proud of the fact one of his young players came from relative sporting royalty in Japan.
“There is one girl, Kyoka Kubo, whose father is Tatsuhiko Kubo,” he said.
“He was a football striker and is very famous in Japan. His daughter is a very talented junior tennis player.”
Matsushima and the other Japanese students are planning a trip to Melbourne to watch the Australian Open.
“All of the children are very excited by this, we will have fun,” he said.