Albury will welcome the nation’s best racquetball stars to town this weekend for the Australian Open Racquetball Championships.
The Commercial Club will host the leading event for the second year running, with a number of Border challengers keen to mark their mark.
Among them is Albury’s Baines family, who have all five members competing in various competitions across the three-day event.
Peter and 16-year-old son Alex will contest the open men’s singles, while wife Marion and daughters Nicola and Gabby will try their hand at other graded events in the women’s tournament.
The family follow the Victorian racquetball circuit and are also keen squash players.
Alex, Gabby and Nicola contested the National Junior Squash Championships in Geelong last week and didn’t disappoint.
Fellow Border player Daniel Chu paired with Alex to finish second in the under 19s doubles tournament, while Gabby finished fourth and Nicola 13th in their respective age groups.
Alex placed 11th in the under 17s boys event and was a member of the Victorian under 17s team that finished runner-up in the team standings.
While there are more opportunities in squash, Peter said the Baines’ enjoy hitting the court for racquetball as well.
“It’s a sport really young kids can play and the skills are easily transferable, so it was a natural progression,” Peter said.
“The beauty of racquetball is we go away as a family and we all play.
“A couple of weeks ago we were at Ballarat and earlier in the year we went to Melbourne where Alex took out the A grade and I was runner-up at the event.
“This time both of us are playing opens, which will be another hurdle for us.
“Alex won A grade last year and I got knocked out in the semi-finals.
“He’s a great hitting partner now, he’s really up to speed.
“His fitness is amazing, it’s really come into play now.”
Alex is excited about playing in the open draw for the first time at a national racquetball tournament.
“It’s a step above, I got some good wins last year and was playing some good racquetball,” he said.
“It’s a bit daunting, but it’s all good experience.”
Tournament director Ross Falconer said the championship has attracted more players than any other racquetball event in the country.
“Of all of the entrants, locally, we’ve got about 60 entrants which is really good,” Falconer said.
“In total, combined singles and doubles, we’ve got 230 entries.”
The event runs from Friday through to Sunday.