Canberra, April 19 (IANS) Tennis Australia has launched a new programme aimed at re-invigorating interest in the sport in which the country used to be No.1 in the world, with Aussie young guns Daria Gavrilova and Thanasi Kokkinakis to champion the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots Match Play.

Australia has not had a tennis World No.1 since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, while the last female No.1 was Margaret Court way back in 1973. Tennis Australia has now launched a revamped programme aimed at getting more kids playing tennis competitively, reports Xinhua news agency.

The programme consists of shorter matches, ranging from 60-75 minutes, and a flexible “first to four games” format, meaning participants can play more matches in the same amount of time.

Aussie tennis player and world No.27 Daria Gavrilova said it was important for kids to enjoy their tennis early if they are to eventually go down the professional path.

“I started to really enjoy my tennis at a young age because I played with my friends,” Gavrilova said late on Tuesday.

“ANZ Tennis Hot Shots Match Play gives kids the chance to play in a team in a fun and social environment. It’s the perfect way for kids to build on their skills and develop their passion for the game.”

Kokkinakis said the “team environment” of the new programme would allow kids to not only develop their tennis skills from a young age, but make friends as well.

“I just picked up a racket and starting hitting. I just loved the feeling of hitting a ball,” Kokkinakis said.

“Hitting with others in a team environment like ANZ Tennis Hot Shots Match Play is a fantastic option for kids to meet kids of a similar age and similar tennis ability. I love tennis because it’s fun and I enjoy it and this is what it should all be about no matter what age you are.”

Meanwhile, Tennis Australia’s Director of Participation Paul Cammack said the program would allow children to “transition their basic tennis skills into a team based competition”.

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