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Grand slam for young star

TEN-YEAR-OLD Lindisfarne local Rupert Mullins experienced the opportunity of a lifetime when he stepped onto Rod Laver Arena for the pre-match coin toss at the 2020 Australian Open.

Selected as an ANZ Tennis Hot Shot player to travel to the Australian Open, Rupert was given the opportunity to flip the 2020 ANZ Commemorative Coin for the men’s quarter final match between 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and American Tennys Sandgren.

The ANZ Hot Shots is Tennis Australia’s official development program specifically designed to introduce children aged between three and 12 years to tennis.

As part of the experience, Rupert also had the chance to meet some of the world’s best tennis players, watch matches, hear Alicia Molik talk about her tennis career and compete in the Super 10s Nationals.

Rupert said his favourite part of the trip was playing tennis and meeting Federer and Sandgren.

“I was so nervous before I went on to Rod Laver Arena in front of the crowd, but really enjoyed it when I was out there and both of the players were really nice,” he said.

“I was also able to compete against players from all over Australia – it was really cool.”

With Rafael Nadal being his favourite player, Rupert said he had been playing tennis for three years.

“I love tennis so much because I love the competitiveness of it and it is so good when you hit a great shot and feel it on your strings,” he said.

“My goal is to be a professional tennis player and win Wimbledon.”

Rupert’s mother Collie Mullins said the opportunity was based on his recent performances and efforts at training with coach John Playle and pro player Jess Fowler.

“Rupert is very self-motivated, so even in the middle of winter he is jumping out of bed to get to his 6.30am tennis lessons,” she said.

“He’s a very competitive and hardworking kid – he amazes me with how committed he is to his sport.”

Ms Mullins said Rupert learnt a lot of new skills and now had the whole tennis world at his feet.

“It was a really good experience for him to soak up the atmosphere of tennis Grand Slams and learn to manage looking after himself at tournaments with things like warm-ups, fluid intake and coping in different weather conditions,” she said.

“A lot of pro players end up doing a lot of travel and have to be quite adaptable to different situations, so this experience has helped develop that.

“He has come back even more motivated about his own tennis journey.”

Caption: 10-year-old Rupert Mullins with Tennys Sandgren, left, and 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.