#VicsAtTheAO – Shepparton and Ascot Vale’s day at the AO | 25 January, 2023

25 January 2023 | Tennis Victoria

In October 2022, many towns were severely affected by the Victorian floods. Some of these areas include Ascot Vale in Melbourne and Shepparton in North Central Victoria. Unfortunately, the courts at Ascot Vale Tennis Club and Shepparton Tennis Club were greatly damaged.

Out of Shepparton’s 26 grass courts, 21 were inundated with flood water. Shepparton were planning on hosting one of the largest tennis events in Victoria, Country Week. Unfortunately, the council had to pull the pin in November as they could not prepare the courts in time for the event. Ascot Vale Tennis Club were also in flood affected area with their courts severely damaged.

Members from the Shepparton Lawn Tennis Club and Ascot Vale Tennis Club were invited to participate in the Kids on Court program this morning. Both clubs got the surprise that they were in fact playing on Rod Laver Arena!

Sam Tozer, Director of Oaks Tennis Academy operates at the Shepparton Lawn Tennis Club.

Having just moved to the area, it was devastating to see the affected community.

“Shepparton was severely affected by the floods, people lost their houses. The floods were a pretty unreal situation, the entire town was underwater.”

When families are losing their houses and have to find alternative accommodation, tennis is not at the forefront of people’s minds. However, there were people from the council and volunteers working hard to get the town back and running.

“We were hugely affected, tennis is just a small part of town; people lost their houses.”

“We were fortunate enough to have full time groundskeepers who worked day and night to get the courts back together, along with volunteers, the council and everyone from the community.”

“When the water broke the levee, the tennis courts were pretty much the first to go. We had water three quarters of the way up to our fence of all of our courts.”

The whole community and surroundings came together in hardship to ensure everyone was looked after.

“We had the McEwen Reserve open their courts for us. As the club was out for a couple of months, it was really traumatic for the town but the community bounced back.”

While most of the courts are back and running, the club was unable to get all courts ready in time for Country Week, which will now be played in Yarrawonga.

“It was a huge disappointment for the club, so unfortunately we didn’t have enough courts for everyone. Hopefully we can host it in the future.”

“They’ve got a great community. There was a lot going on to make sure people were still interested, with competitions in the summer.”

Sam said that the kids were very excited to be attending the Australian Open today, let alone playing on Rod Laver.

“It was an unreal experience, it was incredible. Telling the kids they were coming; that excitement alone was amazing and then seeing the kids out there has been something they’ll remember for a long time.”

Damien Ward, Director of the Ascot Vale Tennis Academy operates at the Ascot Vale Tennis Club. said that the tennis community was devastated by the impacts of the floods in October.

Due to the floods along the Maribyrnong River, the Ascot Vale Tennis Club was heavily affected located only 200m away from the water.

“We lost the courts for about four weeks due to the mud that stayed on the courts as a result of the floods.”

“The council did a lot of work to repair the courts to get them back in playing condition so we were very grateful for their hard work to get us back on court as quickly as possible and safely.”

However, while the courts were out of action, the tennis community rallied together to support the affected clubs like Ascot Vale Tennis Club.

“We are also grateful for Essendon Tennis Club, Vida Tennis and Buckley Secondary College who allowed us to use some of their courts during some of their off time. We are able to continue coaching sporadically throughout the time.”

“It was incredible from the team at Vida and the President of the Essendon Tennis Club to really allow us to bring our program across to use their courts. We’ll definitely return that service if they ever need it down the track. That’s what it’s all about, the community pulling together during those tough times. We were very grateful.”

However, the kids and families had a memorable day at the Tennis today and have enjoyed playing again.

“The kids loved it, they had such a great time. It was a real thrill.”

“Being on Rod Laver was an unbelievable experience. this will be a memory the kids and parents will have for the rest of their lives.”

Experiencing playing at the Australian Open, let alone on Rod Laver Arena will be unforgettable.

“I was fortunate enough to do this three years ago and the flow of affect is amazing. The kids end up loving tennis even more with these experiences. That’s the goal; to keep the kids involved in the sport.”

“It was well organized by Tennis Victoria and Tennis Australia, everything ran perfectly.”

Going into 2023, Damien has high hopes for tennis in the community.

“We did lose a bit of momentum towards the end of last year as a result of the floods and the business of Christmas time. We are very optimistic for 2023 and we are confident that this year will be a year that we will be able to play tennis interrupted.”


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