Fitzy puts a rac­quet in the hand and a smile on the face

Dubbo Photo News - - Sport - By GE­OFF MANN

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.”

Above:

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

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