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Opening of clay courts signals new chapter in elite tennis training

It was a flurry of volleys, forehands, backhands and lobs as Australia’s future stars of tennis today took the chance to test drive Melbourne Park’s eight new clay courts as part of the $366 million redevelopment of the precinct.

Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hugh Delahunty, was joined by Tennis Australia officials, including Steve Wood, Todd Woodbridge and John Fitzgerald to open the courts.

“It’s great to be here to celebrate yet another milestone in the exciting multi-million-dollar redevelopment of our great sporting and entertainment precinct, Melbourne Park,” Mr Delahunty said.

“These eight new courts are a real asset for our emerging and elite athletes who get very little opportunity to train on a European clay surface.

“When you consider that one third of world’s premier tennis tournaments are played on clay courts, you begin to realise that providing a diverse range of court surfaces within training facilities is essential to the growth of our junior players.

“There’s no doubt this redevelopment is delivering many key benefits, including catering for the ongoing growth of the Open, keeping the Grand Slam in Melbourne until at least 2036, and giving our future stars the best support  and facilities to compete on the world stage,” he said.

Minister for Major Projects, Denis Napthine said the Victorian Government had worked closely with Tennis Australia to import clay from Italy to ensure tennis players can play and practice on the same courts as those they’ll be competing on overseas.

“Our next milestone will be the opening of the National Tennis Centre which, combined with the courts, will deliver the best elite development facility in Australian tennis,” Dr Napthine said.

“This exciting project is progressing very well with elements such as the footbridge and Eastern Plaza and National Tennis Centre expected to open to the public before the 2013 Australian Open.

“Patrons of the 2013 Australian Open will also be using the new entrances for Hisense Arena. Over at Margaret Court Arena, major changes are evident.

“This redevelopment is already making Melbourne Park the envy of all the other Grand Slams and this year’s State Budget funding of $5.5 million to plan for Stage Two means that Melbourne Park will continue to set the standard for decades to come.