Two members from the Pacific Islands team at this year’s Victorian Junior Grasscourt Championships at Wodonga Tennis Centre have been offered the opportunity to live, study and play tennis on the Border.
Prudence Bird and Josephene Grace hope to join the Margaret Court Tennis Academy family, where they will look to take their game to the next level.
Pacific team coach for the Margaret Court Cup and Victorian Junior Grasscourt Championships, Yanni Honila, is proud of the relationship between the two tennis organisations.
“It started off 15 years ago and it’s like an exchange program where kids from Margaret Court Tennis Academy come to Fiji and play the Fiji Open,” Honila said.
“Just because of that relationship itself, players in Fiji and Oceania are much happier to come to Albury-Wodonga.
“Every time we come here, we don’t stay in hotels, we stay with host families and it’s just a wonderful experience.
“At the end of the day, as long as they enjoy it, they will want to come back.
“We’ve introduced Prudence to these two tournaments and hopefully she’s convinced to come out here.
“Tennis in the Pacific is really good, but there’s no tournaments.
“We want her to come out here and play more tournaments, so hopefully she’ll be the number one for Soloman Islands in the future.
“We need to get an educational scholarship for her, but she is looking forward to coming over here.”
Honila played in both Border events four times and has been back five years as a coach.
“It’s such a wonderful tournament because we never see grass courts in the Pacific,” he said.
“This year we brought 11 kids and we could have had more, but there is a tournament in New Zealand as well, so most of the players went there.
“They played some good matches at Albury (in the Margaret Court Cup), so the kids are all warmed up and are excited to play this tournament.
“We had Maka Ofati in the semi-finals for the under-14 boys and the final of the under-13 boys.”
Honila said the biggest aspect is getting the players to adjust their swing to suit the surface.
“They’re hardcourt players and they tend to have big backswings, so when they play on grass we advise them to shorten up the swing and have more of an open stance,” he said.
“I’m happy with how they’re adapting.”
The Victorian Junior Grasscourt Championships run through to Sunday.
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