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Past greats inspire a new generation of tennis players

Past greats inspire a new generation of tennis players
January 25, 2014

As the Australian Open draws to a close, Tennis Australia (TA) President Stephen Healy has acknowledged the role that past tennis greats are taking in inspiring a new generation of players.

Healy told The Australian newspaper that involving Pat Rafter (pictured) and Alicia Molik in the nation's representative has aided a trickle-down effect that has seen some encouraging tennis performances this year.

In an interview with The Australian during the Hopman Cup, Healy also voiced his confidence in Craig Tiley's ability to successfully combine his roles as TA's Chief Executive and Australian Open Tournament Director for the first time.

Speaking about younger players including Thanasi Kokkinakis, Nick Kyrgios and Ash Barty, Healy stated "the message it sends to the rest of our juniors about what can be achieved with hard work is, to me, the most optimistic thing that has happened in a long time with player development.

"There are always a multitude of reasons for it, never just one. But I think with Pat Rafter, (Tony) Roche and Josh Eagle driving the men and Alicia (Molik) doing the (same with the) women, the message got through to cut out all the nonsense, get out there and work your butt off in the old-fashioned way."

Healy was confident that Tiley would be able to successfully balance his role running Tennis Australia and the Australian Open despite questions about the role being combined in the past.

Tiley was promoted from within the NSO to Chief Executive of Tennis Australia after Steve Wood's resignation last August but Healy said the board never considered asking him to stand down as tournament director of the Australian Open.

Healy added "when we talked to him about taking on the role, I said, 'We want you to keep doing it'. That is what Wimbledon does. That is what the French Federation does.

"His relationship with the players is as good as anyone in the world, so why would you take a bloke out of his strength, which is one of the strengths of the organisation, so why would you want to change that? The board never ever considered that."

Healy also confirmed TA was in negotiations with an airline to replace Virgin Australia as a major sponsor of the Australian Open, stressed his satisfaction in the organisation's running of the 2014 Hopman Cup despite player withdrawals and a dip in attendances, and expressed confidence a junior-age participation program will draw more numbers than the AFL's version in coming years.

He continued "I think the Australian Open is strong enough and if the deal isn't right at the time, we are strong enough to hold off and wait for the right company that is aligned with what we want to do, at a fair price."

Among the longer term goals for the sport, TA wants to surpass the AFL's Auskick program with its junior Hot Shots program aimed at introducing and keeping children involved with tennis, concluding "the big ambition for us is obviously player development ... that is a constant."





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