LOCAL tennis coach Nicole Bauer was recently recognised by Tennis Victoria as a top performer within the industry.
The founder of Bionic Tennis Coaching, which operates out of Longford and Stratford tennis clubs, was extended a personal invitation by head of Tennis Coaches Victoria Rufus Keown to attend a special evening at the Australian Open, which recognised six coaches from across the country that performed exceptionally well last year.
The group of coaches and Tennis Victoria employees dined at 56 by the Glasshouse, before watching a night session with a line-up that boasted men's world number five Daniil Medvedev from Russia, and women's world number 20, Angelique Kerber from Germany.
Most other coaches acknowledged were city-based and big operators, so Bauer said it was an incredible honor to be included in the mix.
"We sat about 10 rows from the court, which was pretty awesome," she said.
"It was very humbling, and very exciting to think that they actually are acknowledging what we're doing in our little country towns and clubs."
It was a busy Australian Open for Bauer, who took 35 local children to participate in the Hot Shots Kids on Court Experience and Orange Ball Hot Shots MatchPlay regional finals on Melbourne Park's courts during the two weeks.
Bionic's MatchPlayers qualified to play after success in tournaments at Booroondara and Dingley late last year.
"It was pretty impressive to see they could mix it with the best of the Melbourne kids," Bauer said.
Bauer also attended the final day of the Kooyong Classic as a personal guest of Tennis Victoria chief executive Ruth Holdaway, participated in a day-long National Coaches Conference Masterclass at Scotch College and rubbed shoulders with the finest in the industry at the Women in Coaching Networking Gala at the MCG Legends Room.
Bauer has coached since she was a year nine student in a Brisbane high school, helping out with a program called Little Aces, before coaching right through university, and moving St George in 2000, where she ended up working for herself within the year.
While Bauer has now been in this area just shy of seven years, helping out here and there, she established Bionic Tennis Coaching two years ago, and hasn't looked back.
"I've realised life's short, and you've got to do what makes you happy, and this is my happy place," she said.
"Watching the joy on their faces after hitting a shot, like that," Bauer said, nodding to a preschool-aged student mid-interview with the Gippsland Times.
"That's her second lesson ever, and she just absolutely smashed that backhand."
Her love of the game is clearly infectious, as evidenced by growing junior numbers on a Saturday morning during Wellington Gippsland Tennis Association summer pennant.
With 130 children on the books and growing after only two years of operation, plus five adult classes a week, Bauer has been an enormous get for tennis in the area.
Her clientele across the two clubs ranges from determined two-year-olds learning the basics, like throwing and running, through to spunky grandmas giving the young'uns a run for their money.
Her classes include private lessons, group sessions, toddler tennis, Hot Shots, Tennis Rocks, ladies squad, cardio tennis and Open Court sessions - something for everyone.
She always has strong interest in her Legends tours, which have included taking a group of women to the Federation Cup finals in Perth, and a group of children to the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne, where they toured exclusive areas, like the players' lounges and locker rooms.
"I like to create a number of different opportunities for people to fall in love with the game," she said.
"Just give them opportunities that country kids don't normally get, and ignite a bit of a spark and love for the game.
Bauer's optimistic nature seems to bring the best out in her students, and parents and students can confirm the unbridled energy and fun she brings to each session.
For those that know her, to say tennis is her passion is an understatement.
"It's great to watch and coach elite players, but it's more fun to watch clubs be super busy and the next generation coming through," she said.
"I love the game - it's my favourite game in the whole wide world, and I just get so much joy from watching people fall in love with the game like I do."
For more information, email bionictenniscoaching@ gmail.com or phone 0409 692 852.