Monday, 4 November 2013

It's all go in Bendigo.

We're on the road again - anyone for Tennis?
 We're off to watch some International Pro Tour tennis in Bendigo.

'Whaaat?' I hear you say. 'Why Bendigo?' 

Or maybe, if you're reading this on the other side of the world 'Where's Bendigo?'

Australian protour flags and blue skies!
Bendigo is a regional city, two hours out of Melbourne, right in the heart of Victoria. The city's beautiful architecture remains a reminder of it's rich history and prosperity from the 1851 gold rush. It is a great place to visit, but not necessarily one that springs to mind as having one of the top Women's tennis tournaments in world last week ($100,000 in prize money was on offer over the two weeks of tournaments). 

Bendigo is also one of thirteen transit cities in regional areas identified by the Victorian Government as part of a 30-year strategy to help accommodate Melbourne's future population growth and manage the ever increasing demand for housing and transport. 

This push for regional development has impacted on all aspects of life. We notice it particularly with sports, as we ferry kids further and further afield out of Melbourne. Different Sports Federations are keen to embrace and encourage regional sport for all. Our football gala days are one example. We are impressed by the desire to push for more regional competition and the facilities are often awesome when we get there. 

So we are not surprised to find some pretty flash looking tennis courts when we arrive at the Bendigo Tennis Association's Nolan Street complex, with it's welcoming, fluttering flags and bright blue plexi cushion courts. Nice we think!

Bendigo Tennis Association, Nolan Street.
Double nice, when we get a park right outside the entrance and find that entry is free. Now thank you Tennis Australia, because this, is a complete bargain. This years events features 15 of the top 20 ranked female Australia players, including Casey Dellacqua, Ashleigh Barty, Olivia Rogowska and Sacha Jones.  And I might add, some talented and very lovely International players.

In a few weeks time when our Aussie Summer of Tennis kicks off, we will be paying big money to watch tennis. Last time I watched Dellacqua and Barty play, it was in Rod Laver Arena in January, on their way to the 2013 Australian Open Women's doubles final. Dellacqua is on court when we arrive, having already won the previous week and she's hitting well.

Here in Bendigo we stroll up, choose a seat in the shade with a great view of all the on court action and the players mingle with the crowds afterwards. Well let's not over egg this, the beauty of this event was, there were no crowds.

There was something very charming about the tournament. It was polished, but not to perfection. We noticed the Ball Kids were not in the matching uniforms (shorts and shoes) and had not been drilled to perfection, as is necessary for a Grand Slam. There was a wonderful moment when the Court Umpire had to request  'Ball please'

The offending ball kid momentarily having zoned out, or perhaps was so star struck that they forgot the routine... 

Another ball kid gets our attention, with an impressive overarm bowling action that goes on every time a player needs a ball. We think that perhaps they should be quietly but enthusiastically redirected into cricket, although the players are unfazed and swiftly and cheerfully, learn to manage to catch the high flying tennis balls! 

We have a lovely afternoon watching the tennis and enjoying the sunshine, it was grey and miserable when we left Melbourne... This will be one of the last tournaments of the season and the standard of play was high. Whilst it was relaxed in Bendigo, players are competitive and keen to gain vital last WTA world ranking points before the end of the season. 

It's a long gruelling season on the road, and the upcoming few weeks without tournaments are a welcome break and much needed time for rest and relaxation. However, with the Aussie Open only weeks away in mid January, the clock is ticking, and most professional tennis players, do not take much of a Christmas break (if any). Ending the season playing well in Bendigo, gives a tremendous encouragement for the next year and it shows on their faces as the players battle it out on court.

Bendigo was perfect. Warm and sunny and for the record Australian Casey Dellaqua goes on to win her second Bendigo Protour tournament, having won the previous weeks as well. 

After the tennis, we head into town to find Bendigo is full of race goers. This is where the crowds are. Today is also the Bendigo Cup. A highlight in the local area, a significant day for Country race goers, and even a days holiday in the local area. It's all go in Bendigo!

The Australian Open starts Jan 13th 2014. Can't wait!

Linked to Blue Monday

Thank you to Sally! 
Please pop over by to see Sally and the other Blue Monday participants if you can!

Smiling Sally

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