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World’s largest grass-court occasion a success in Albury-Wodonga | 15 February, 2024 | All Information | Information and Options | Information and Occasions

Nation Week has turn out to be an annual pilgrimage for a lot of, with 1320 tennis gamers ranging in age from 16 to 82 descending on the grass-court oasis of Albury Wodonga this week.

Wodonga, Victoria, 15 February 2024 | Courtney Walsh

A fortnight after Jannik Sinner capped a record-breaking Australian Open along with his maiden Grand Slam title, the world’s largest grassroots celebration of tennis is underway in regional Victoria.

Nation Week has turn out to be an annual pilgrimage for a lot of, with 1320 tennis gamers ranging in age from 16 to 82 descending on the grass-court oasis of Albury-Wodonga this week.

The 221 groups are competing on 101 grass courts – 30 in Wodonga, 35 in Albury and an extra 46 which have been marked out on a neighborhood cricket and soccer floor.

Contested within the second week of February every year, the groups occasion has rotated over the previous decade between Swan Hill, Yarrawonga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

Tennis brings collectively households and friendship teams that cross generations and are available from all corners of Victoria, throughout Australia and even around the globe, in a celebration of group.

It’s an occasion as conventional as having fun with a barbecue in summer time, with the odor of freshly-cut grass permeating the air as gamers arrive every morning to search out the traces freshly chalked.

Equally to the Australian Open, the place the excellent tennis options as a part of a broader pageant expertise, there may be much more to Nation Week than a good first serve and volley.

The tennis is essential, with groups cut up into 26 grades this 12 months throughout the boys’s and ladies’s competitions, however it’s only a part of the attraction of a real grassroots occasion.

From Sunday night time on the Wodonga Tennis Membership, the place 4 new “Nation Week Legends” had been honoured for his or her service to the occasion and the game, and all through the week, the motion is as thick, quick and livid on the social circuit as it’s between the baselines.

Creativity is essential and never simply with reference to a few of the home-crafted service actions on show.

Mastering a group title – for instance –The Lecontes, Sledgends, The Miss Hits and The Mumms, and nailing a inventive costume design add to the color that includes gamers aged from their teenagers by way of to their 80s.

New Nation Week legend Kerry White, who was inducted alongside Kieran Fitzgerald, Mary Dewis and David Kos, has performed the occasion for greater than 30 years.

Her Sunbury-based group put on eye-catching costumes every year and spend a major period of time planning their designs for every season’s event.

“You get again to only being your self with your mates. For us, it isn’t simply concerning the tennis,” White stated.

“The camaraderie with the ladies, the shenanigans we stand up to, even the silly issues that occur once we are on the point of exit for the night time time, it’s simply a lot enjoyable.

“It most likely takes me a couple of month to get better afterwards. It’s a bit like a drug, I suppose. After you have had a style of it, you simply hold wanting to come back again for extra.”

Kos has represented Mud Island, which sits in the midst of Port Phillip Bay and options gamers from the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, for many years and loves the occasion.

“Isn’t it humorous that I’m getting rewarded for staying up late, speaking to folks and taking part in tennis all week, that are all of the issues I get in hassle for at residence?” he stated.

Totally different iterations of Nation Week have been held round Australia for at the least 70 years, with regional and state associations combining to hit balls and luxuriate in their thrills on the court docket.

For years the first Victorian occasion was held on the Junction Oval in St Kilda. The 2024 version has drawn groups from New Zealand to Tasmania, from Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour to Toorahweenah and Leongatha, and gamers from Australia and overseas.

Greg Maarschalk, who represents the Westernport Penguins, grew up in Zimbabwe, performed faculty tennis in the USA in opposition to abilities together with John Isner and frolicked competing in Canada and Perth earlier than settling in Sydney a couple of decade in the past.

He takes go away from work each summer time to compete and stated he has come throughout nothing like Nation Week in his expertise taking part in tennis all around the globe.

“That is the kind of occasion that makes tennis such a particular sport,” Maarschalk stated.

“The motion on the courts is nice. The primary courts every year are unbelievable to play on and it’s nice to see so many individuals of all ranges and ages having a lot enjoyable through the week.

“However there may be a lot extra to Nation Week than tennis. Having the ability to meet up with outdated associates, see acquainted faces, trade photographs on the court docket and some laughs off it’s implausible.

“It truly is a pageant of the whole lot that’s enjoyable a couple of sport that so many people love.”

The camaraderie is obvious on the court docket. However the cloth of the broader tennis household has so usually been on show at Nation Week throughout troublesome instances for members and the state.

It’s 15 years because the Black Saturday bushfires razed the state and the tennis group which contested a sombre week in Albury-Wodonga raised vital charity funds.

Related efforts have unfolded to assist cities affected by floods or droughts through the years in a nod to the nation heartbeat that also pervades all elements of the event.

Tennis Victoria’s Interim chief government Tamatha Harding is aware of the duty of making certain the gamers are effectively catered to and is delighted by the broad response as soon as once more.

She touched on the financial influence Nation Week has on the host area, noting current editions have injected as much as $3.3 million into the native financial system every year.

“It’s a pinnacle occasion on our calendar and likewise that of our gamers,” Harding stated.

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