Easter event vital for tennis — Woodbridge

EVENTS such as the Maffra Easter tournament are vital in promoting grassroots tennis, according to 23-time major winner Todd Woodbridge.

The 88th Maffra Lawn Tennis Club Easter tournament will be held from April 18 to 21.

Woodbridge said Easter was a great time for the community to get involved with the local club and support the event.

“Easter is a traditional time for rural tournaments, people take their Easter holiday to play in a tournament,” he told the Gippsland Times.

Woodbridge said Easter tournaments catered for all ages and standards.

“Regional tournaments get that more than in the city,” he said.

Woodbridge enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning won 16 grand slam men’s doubles titles, many with Mark Woodforde, and seven mixed doubles crowns. With Woodforde, he won Olympic gold in 1996 and silver in 2000.

He was also a member of Australia’s Davis Cup winning teams in 1999 and 2003 and also made the men’s singles semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1997.

It was regional tournaments which Woodbridge said helped him develop.

“I had great memories of playing regional tournament when I was a kid.

Often I’d play in five sections (over a weekend),” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to play against senior players. It’s a chance to test yourself.

“It makes an aspiring young player a better player.

“You find yourself learning. You can play a crafty old players who can hit the ball to different parts of the court, or a play a big player who has a big serve.

“It’s a breeding ground for young players.”

But it wasn’t just the standard of tennis which helped keep these events going.

“The key to the success of these tournaments is the social side,” Woodbridge said.

“Events like Maffra are crucial to keeping tennis strong, in terms of development and participation.”

Woodbridge was hopeful the increasing strength of Australian tennis on the world tour would encourage more people to play the sport.

“On the male side, there is the probably the most depth since the early 1990s when the group I was in came through were at their best,” he said.

“We’d always had at least one player up there, but now there’s the depth.”

Woodridge pointed to Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, who made the second round of the men’s singles at this year’s Australian Open, as having “X factor”, which would continue to gain fans.

Woodbridge said Hot Shots programs for children aged five and up as well as school programs led to young players joining clubs and entering local tournaments.

Smaller courts, lighter racquets and decompressed balls allow children to actually hit rallies from the start.

Term two registrations for Hot Shots are begin accepted at hotshots.tennis.com.au