The National Indigenous Tennis Carnival (NITC) celebrated its fourth edition in Darwin, witnessing the rise of new champions. The event, which embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures through tennis, concluded with the presentation of trophies by Wiradjuri tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Tennis NT President Steve Rossingh, a Kamilaroi man.
Initiated in 2018, the NITC has grown to become an annual four-day extravaganza, focusing on culture, community, tennis, education, and well-being. Evonne Goolagong Cawley expressed her excitement and joy at being a part of the event, highlighting the strong connections formed with the participants and the positive impact of combining sports and cultural learning.
The 18-and-under girls' and boys' titles were secured by Giselle Kawane from Cairns, Queensland, and Charlie Pade from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, respectively. In the 14-and-under mixed competition, Lewis Murray from Castlemaine, Victoria, successfully defended his title.
Reflecting on her experience, Kawane emphasized the unique sense of community and pride in playing on the center court, surrounded by fellow Indigenous athletes. Pade shared his elation as the 18-and-under boys' champion and articulated his aspirations to continue training hard and pursuing excellence in tennis. Murray, who secured his second consecutive 14-and-under mixed title, expressed his ambition to reach the highest echelons of the sport.
Tennis Australia's First Nations tennis pathway plays a pivotal role in the NITC's mission. The carnival is a significant component of Tennis Australia's commitment to diversity, offering opportunities for Indigenous tennis players across various levels and locations.
Notably, a special award ceremony saw Evonne Goolagong Cawley presenting Jayden Kemp from South Australia with the Evonne Goolagong Cawley Medal of Excellence for his exemplary leadership and conduct on and off the court. The overall performance on court earned the New South Wales team the Ash Barty Cup, while Palmerston (NT) emerged victorious in the Tennis Hot Shots red-ball competition, and Queensland triumphed in the team-based Future Stars orange-ball competition.
Furthermore, the event also served as a platform for Australian Open ballkid trials, with 16 First Nations participants vying for a place in the Australian Open 2024 Ballkid Squad. The selected candidates are set to be announced in the forthcoming weeks.
This event not only showcases exceptional tennis talent but also reinforces the power of sports to unify communities and provide avenues for growth and personal development. The National Indigenous Tennis Carnival continues to leave an indelible mark on Australia's tennis landscape, fostering inclusivity and celebrating diversity.
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Photo Courtesy Tennis Australia
Courtesy Tennis Australia