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The Easter long weekend is upon us, and for many, that means grass court tennis.


Over the coming days, thousands of players of all ages and abilities will flock to country towns and grass courts – united by the game of tennis.


Among them, Shepparton will celebrate its 100th tournament while the Yarrawonga Tennis Club will host the most popular event of the weekend with its 125th anniversary.


Tournament director Jason Bassett told The First Serve that a record number of players will be in action, across the fifty-seven lawn courts that fill the club and neighboring football oval.


We’ll have 1335 players competing across the weekend, and a further 715 are on the waiting list”, Jason revealed.


The figure edges out Victoria Country Week (where Albury and Wodonga hosted 1320 players in February) as well as the Australian Open (with just over 1000 total players) to be the nation’s largest tennis event for 2024.


Incredible demand to play saw individual entries close within an hour of opening, and in trying to give as many people as possible the opportunity to get on court, the 2024 edition will have a larger number of condensed draws.


We have 104 different events; 33 singles draws, 51 across men’s and women’s doubles, and another 20 mixed competitions”, Jason said.


The record playing contingent has also created a hectic four-day plan with 1910 matches scheduled (including over 1300 across Friday and Saturday), described by the director as “unbelievable”.


And while the numbers alone are incredible, it’s the vast range of players and demographics that make the event unique.


We have players from 7-years-old up to 83, as well as families in fourth generation playing”, Jason remarked.


The tournament perfectly illustrates the power of grassroots sport in bringing people together for both competitive tennis and a positive social experience.


The event continues to draw groups back year after year and its success can be attributed to the incredible time and effort given by people around the club and community.


This year, we have 58 volunteers rostered on, plus many kids that jump in and help.”


The team always ensure a stellar weekend for those playing and supporting, with volunteers and kids announcing players for matches, recording scores, and serving food, in what is undoubtedly a major boost to the local economy.


One worker deserves a particularly special mention for his work in preparing the lawn courts – surfaces which are always in pristine condition, even after being tested in 2023 with an unprecedented Yarrawonga hailstorm.


Warwick Henderson – who has thirty-plus years of experience in greenkeeping, not to mention over six hundred games as a footy umpire – is heading from Yarrawonga to Wodonga after this season.


Warwick – one example of the many great people across community sport – will no doubt be missed on the Mulwala border, labelled by Jason as a “genius”.


The 2024 event will see the return of local artist Daine Runnalls to perform at the courts on Saturday evening, while a new initiative from the club is offering players and groups the chance to name a court after themselves.


Ultimately, while tennis has its battles in Australia, Yarrawonga’s Easter Tournament perfectly showcases the power of the game in a manner which few other sports could.


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