Fitzy puts a racquet in the hand and a smile on the face
JOHN FITZGERALD was a top-notch tennis player; the kids at Geurie Public think he’s a real Hot Shot.
The man affectionately known as “Fitzy” was in town to present racquets and introduce modified games to students under the ANZ Hot Shots Racquets Roadshow earlier this month.
The Roadshow will see a total of 110,000 racquets delivered nationally by the end of the year as part of the School Partnerships Program.
Fitzy recalled his days as a little fellow growing up on the Eyre Peninsular in South Australia.
“We played on dirt courts on local properties and community halls and we used normal racquets and fully pressurised balls. These days the Hot Shots Red games introduce children to the sport with larger modified racquets and balls designed to bounce to an easily-hittable height, so it encourages everyone to have a go,” he said.
“At Geurie Public we saw every student with a tennis racquet in their hands and huge smiles on their faces! They were so excited to be able to hit the ball and make it over the lower, specially designed nets.”
Fitzy had a magnificent record, representing Australia in Davis Cups for nearly two decades. He won nine major doubles championships on the world circuit.
Once retired, Fitzy took on the challenge as Team Captain of the Aussie team. He was in charge when we last won the Davis Cup in 2003 and is confident that we have a great new crop of players coming through.
“Alex Di Minaur and Ash Barty are definite top ten prospects. They have the poise and the tremendous shot-making skills that are the hallmarks of champions,” Fitzy enthused.
Whilst Australia has to play Austria to qualify for the main draw later this year, he sees this as part of a resurgence.
“We dipped out to Germany in the first round last year but it was not until a classic five-set battle that the tide turned. We can get back up there, although it is unlikely we’ll ever repeat the halcyon days in the ‘50s to ‘70s. There are so many countries and millions more players these days, but we are still producing exciting talent.”
Aussie tennis legend John Fitzgerald (standing at back) pictured with students at Geurie Public School. Below, with kids and staff at the school. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF KAREN BEHSMAN
Tyrone Peachey, Josh “The Fox” Addo-carr, James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell with their friend and mentor Bear Hall and wife Marg