Australian Open beckons for Indian ball kids

Ten Indian kids are assured of a visit to Melbourne in January to be part of the 380 ball kids operating at the Australian Open.

Former World No.1 doubles star Todd Woodbridge with the young players during the Australian Open ball kids initiative at the DLTA Complex on Friday.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

It was a memorable afternoon for the kids assembled at the RK Khanna Stadium complex as 22-time Grand Slam tennis champion Todd Woodbridge guided them cheerfully, despite the hot sun. He inspired the young players by saying that he himself had started off as a ball kid as had Roger Federer.

With ten Indian kids assured of a visit to Melbourne in January to be part of the 380 ball kids, operating at the Australian Open, the 19 kids were a happy lot, listening to the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau.

“It is a delight to travel to India for the second time in one year,” said the Governor, as she stressed the strong bond between Australia and India in different fields, particularly sports.

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“There is a lot of people to people connection. We have 200,000 Indians in Victoria, and there are 40,000 students apart from many travellers,” said Dessau, who unveiled the Australian Open trophies.

The kids were told to try and emulate India’s No. 1 singles player Yuki Bhambri, who won the Australian Open junior title when he was 16.

The Deputy High Commissioner of Australia, Rod Hilton, said, “study hard, listen to your teachers; play hard, listen to your coaches, sky is the limit.”

The president of Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) and the life president of the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Anil Khanna, expressed happiness about the revival of the ball kids scheme which had taken a bunch of Indian kids to Melbourne twice in the past.

He highlighted Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori as classic examples of the emerging force of Asia on the world tennis stage.