THE best tennis players in the world are coming to Traralgon.
You might not know them yet, but you will in time.
For the past 24 years the AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International tennis tournament has been a nursery for the biggest names in the game, from Roger Federer to Richard Gasquet.
Just three years ago wild child Nick Kyrgios took the title in Traralgon before rampaging to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon the following season.
This month the 2013 Traralgon champion Kyrgios came face-to-face with 2014 winner Alexander Zverev, now ranked 83 in the world, in senior international competition at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
A single session ticket to watch that match went for anywhere between $30 to $100 – but in Traralgon you can watch these guys for free.
Who wouldn’t want to say they saw a formative Federer before he won all those grand slams?
That’s what the Traralgon International Tennis Federation event is all about.
“To see Alex and Nick play the other night was fantastic. To turn on the telly and see the 2013 and 2014 champions, it shows the pathway for them to transition to the senior ranks (is here),” Traralgon Tennis Association manager Susie Grumley said.
“They do (go on to bigger and better things). They’re the top juniors in the world (that play here) and juniors that are about to break into the senior competitions as well. They’re juniors we could see later this year or next year playing in the grand slams.”
With planning for a new showcourt in Traralgon well underway, and development set to start in a matter of months, Grumley said the spectacle would only be enhanced in years to come.
“It (the ITF junior) is an institution (here), we just feel so honoured to host it year after year,” she said.
“Hopefully with the showcourt starting this year we can improve our facilities to keep hosting the tournament; how wonderful will it be to have that next year and people can come and watch at no charge.
“They’re getting the same sort of tennis, world class junior tennis, as they would if they went to Melbourne Park and watched the Aus Open junior, it’s the same kids playing in their own backyard.”
Among this year’s crop of talent is world number three junior Mate Valkusz from Hungary.
The 17 year-old was a semi-finalist at the famous Orange Bowl Championships in Florida last month and won the Yacatan Cup in Mexico last November.
Top Sydney 16 year-old Alex De Minaur heads the Australian contingent at number 18 in the world rankings.
Alex reached the round of 16 in the Orange Bowl Championships and was a finalist in the Eddie Herr International Tennis Championships in Florida last month.
In the girls’ draw world number four Bianca Andreescu of Canada looms as the player to beat after taking out the Orange Bowl singles.
Her countrywoman and 2015 Traralgon champion Katherine Sebov will also be among the hunted as she attempts to defend the crown.
Leading the Aussie girls is Jaimee Fourlis.
The 16 year-old from Melbourne is ranked number 57 and won the Oceania Closed Junior Championships in Fiji in August.
They will come under fire from local talent and world number 84 Destiny Aviva of Cranbourne, who made the round of 16 at the Australian Open junior last year after playing in Traralgon.
Qualifying rounds begin on Thursday, 14 January, with main draw commencing on Saturday, 16 January.
All play starts at 10am.
Entry to the Traralgon Tennis Association is free.
For more information phone Susie Grumley on 0448 551 610.
2001: Joachim Johansson
2002: Richard Gasquet
2003: Matthieu Montcourt
2004: Mihail Zverev
2005: Carsten Ball
2006: Antonio Veic
2007: Roman Jebavey
2008: Jared Easton
2009: Julien Obry
2010: Justin Eleveld
2011: Andres Artunedo Martinavarr
2012: Filip Peliwo
2013: Nick Kyrgios
2014: Alexander Zverev
2015: Seong Chan Hong
2001: Marion Bartoli
2002: Hanna Nooni
2003: Nadja Pavic
2004: Timea Bacsinszky
2005: Magdalena Rybarikova
2006: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2007: Jasmina Tinjic
2008: Cindy Chala
2009: Ksenia Kirillova
2010: Timea Babos
2011: Monica Puig
2012: Krista Hardebeck
2013: Anna Danilina
2014: Varvara Flink
2015: Katherine Sebov
2001: Andrew Banks (GBR) Tom Pocock (GBR)
2002: Richard Gasquet (FRA) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
2003: Gael Monfils (FRA) Josselin Ouanna (FRA)
2004: Julian Reister (GER) Mihail Zverev (GER)
2005: Lukas Lacko (SVK) Pavol Cerenak (SVK)
2006: Fumiaki Kita (JPN) Dennis Lajola (USA)
2007: Stephen Donald (AUS) Rupesh Roy (IND)
2008: Matt Reid (AUS) Ryan Harrison (USA)
2009: Julien Obry (FRA) Adrien Puget (FRA)
2010: James Duckworth (AUS) Ben Mitchell (AUS)
2011: George Morgan (GBR) Mate Pavic (CRO)
2012: Nick Kyrgios (AUS) Wayne Montgomery (SAF)
2013: Enzo Couacaud (FRA) Stefano Napolitano (ITA)
2014: Lucas Miedler (AUT) Bradley Mousley (AUS)
2015: Akira Santillan (JPN) Tim Van Rijthoven (NED)
2001: Petra Cetkovska (CZE) Barbora Strycova (CZE)
2002: Sania Mirza (IND) Linda Smolenakova (SVK)
2003: Debravka Cupac (AUS) Natalie Tenevska (AUS)
2004: Angelique Kerber (GER) Marta Lesniak (POL)
2005: Michaela Johansson (SWE) Nadja Roma (SWE)
2006: Tyra Calderwood (AUS) Jessica Moore (AUS)
2007: Anastasia Pavlyuckenkova (RUS) Adriana Rodionova (RUS)
2008: Bianca Swanepoel (SAF) Chen Astrugo (ISR)
2009: Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) Silvia Njiric (CRO)
2010: Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) Luksika Kumkhum (THA)
2011: Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) Monica Puig (PUR)
2012: Ilka Csoregi (ROM) Elizaveta Kulichkova (RUS)
2013: Elise Mertens (BEL) Ipek Soylu (TUR)
2014: Anastasiya Komardina (RUS) Nina Stojanovic (SRB)
2015: Vera Lapko (BLR) Tereza Mihalikova (SVK)