Australia has been waiting for an outstanding talent for tennis among its indigenous population to restore the glories of the past nearly half a century after Evonne Goolagong-Cawley won her first Australian Grand Prix title at the Grand Prix. And the French Open in 1971.
Ashley Barty is ranked 16th in the rankings, the only indigenous, among the top 200 women in the world.
The professional player’s tournaments have long hampered the indigenous population, with promising tennis players failing to leave a footprint.
The younger brother of Goolagong Cawley is the only indigenous player to play at Wimbledon after participating in a mixed doubles match in 1982 with his sister, who won seven Grand Slam titles.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, whose institution is mainly sponsoring tennis talent among the local population, has no illusions about challenging the preparation of the 650,000 native heroes.
The lack of tennis infrastructure, especially in remote areas, means that the first sports tool held by indigenous children is an oval ball, not a racket.
“All you need is a ball to kick her,” said Goolagong-Cawley.
Goolagong-Cawley believes, however, that tennis can reap the benefits of investments in specialised programs, which have been going on for years.
“The more kids we have, the more chance we can find a hero,” she said. “Now we have a better chance because tennis in Australia gives them more paths.”
A group of young native people is making their way to the ITF Championships, including the two brothers Corrie and Crystal Clark, from the northern state of New South Wales.
Tennis hopes to get more momentum from the launch of the first Darwin Indigenous Festival in September, which will feature 180 top tennis players from every state and region for the first time.
Indigenous Australians still suffer from high suicide rates and are at the bottom of most economic and social indicators.
According to a recent government report, society has failed to meet more than half of the goals to bridge the gap between indigenous peoples and the rest of Australia’s population, but Goolagong-Cawley believes tennis is making progress.
“When I started, I was the only one of the indigenous people who participated in the tournaments. If I go back more, the indigenous people were not allowed to enter the clubs, but these things have changed over time.”
Goolagong-Cawley, who grew up with seven brothers in Barilan, NSW, explained that all her fame and triumphs might have been lost had it not been for the support of the people of her small town.
“We were not able to buy anything, but the people of my town gave me everything, so I want to give them back and give them what they have done with me,” she said.
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