Young guns court success
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Our junior tennis players dominance has them destined for future greatness
By Charlie Gill
There are many high-performance tennis academies littered across our globe – from vast, sweltering compounds in Florida to prestigious boarding schools in Switzerland, each equipped with cryogenic chambers and top-of-the-line sports scientists. But the way things are tracking, the winner of Wimbledon 2026 won’t be an alumnus of one of these sophisticated institutions. Instead, they’ll be the product of a humbler establishment, having learnt their craft on six nondescript courts sitting behind a handsome grandstand and just a short walk from an equally handsome rotunda.
That’s right. The grand slam winners of the future are currently honing their skills at the Fitzroy Tennis Club. The club’s junior program had a phenomenally successful Autumn 2021 season, with seven of their eight teams making finals and three of them bringing home premiership flags to hang proudly in the clubhouse.
The Boys Section 2 team, Boys Section 3 team and Mixed 1 team were the three champion sides. Members of the Mixed 1 team include future household names such as Benji Husband, Matilda Wright, Alex Hobbs, Morgan Wylie and Hamish Cope – and their grand final against Bundoora on June 26 was a tense and dramatic affair that didn’t start according to plan.
Alex Hobbs, aged nine, describes his confidence going into the match:
“I went onto the tennis court thinking that it would be an easy game, four sets to us. I was dead wrong.”
Fitzroy lost the opening two sets and Alex concedes he “had already condemned himself to losing, rather than to hope to come back and be crushed”. But the Roys found something within them and fought hard – suddenly, the two teams were even on two sets and nineteen games each.
"I went onto the tennis court thinking that it would be an easy game, four sets to us. I was dead wrong"
The match went to a tiebreaker. Alex and Hamish readied themselves.
“I thought that we had a fifty-fifty chance” says Alex.
“Again, I was dead wrong. It was like playing a different team. I don't know whether it was our determination or their nerves, but we just seemed to get every shot back.”
And so, although it almost derailed at the last moment, the Mixed 1 team’s season of success was capped off with premiership glory, winning 20 games to 19.
“It was a rollercoaster of disappointment and excitement” says Alex. “Winning the competition meant the world to me”.
The victory took determination, ability and composure and will no doubt be remembered as the triumph that launched the illustrious individual careers of the teams’ members. Particularly Alex, whose eloquence has him destined to become a media darling of the pro-tennis circuit.
Making the accomplishments of the entire Fitzroy Juniors program even more impressive is the fact that they had to maintain their skill level and motivation despite having to pause their training due to COVID-19 restrictions. Bryce Devlin, one of the club’s head coaches, says they “came out of lockdown hungry and worked super hard at training”.
“The kids consistently demonstrate the spirit of tennis week in week out. But win or lose it’s such a nice vibe down at the club, I’m stoked to be a part of it.”
The Spring season begun in August and has been postponed due to the Delta outbreak. But expectations are still high, and the abundance of achievement that the club enjoyed in Autumn has them unafraid to heap immense pressure on the children:
“We’re sure they can do the same again” says the club Junior Supervisors.
Jokes aside, the youngsters producing “one of the club’s most successful junior seasons in history” seems the result of the environment they’re practicing in. As Alex puts it:
“I love the atmosphere there, like you're always welcome, even as a new player. And a lot of people know each other and can just have a friendly talk while waiting or sitting on a bench.”
If you happen to be walking through Edinburgh Gardens on a sunny Saturday morning post-lockdown, be sure to pop into the courts and watch these future stars in action. If that time doesn’t suit, no worries. Instead, you can book a ticket for the 2035 Australian Open final: 7.30 PM at Alex Hobbs Arena.