James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — One of Rafael Nadal’s great advantages in his tennis journey was the opportunity, as a junior, to hit and train with fellow Majorcan Carlos Moya.
Observing personally the preparation and expertise that some of the games best players employ, that keeps them leading the field, is perhaps the best lesson any young player can be a part of. Getting to practice with a professional player gives a junior player a step up and one that can ultimately skyrocket a young players game.
Jack Schipanski and Jordan Thompson are such two players.
During the last few weeks at the Australian Open these two junior Australian players, who are currently making the leap to the men’s game, were given the opportunity to hit with a range of stars.
“I told Scott Draper I was around and available to hit,” said Schipanski of his experience. “Scott got back to me later that morning, and said you’ve got Novak.”
Schipanski hit with the world No. 1 for about an hour on an outside court whilst Djokovic’s coach, hitting partner, strength and condition trainer, physio and an abundance of fans watched on.
“His coach was also a help with some technical things on my game, he gave me some great advice.”
Later Djokovic was a little more challenging.
“We played a few points and he said whoever loses this point has do to five push-ups. So I played one of the best follow up forehands I have ever played and won the point. He comes straight back and says double or nothing. Again I get a forehand on top of the net, he guesses the wrong way and I miss an easy put away. Then it’s push-ups in front of everyone watching.”
Jordan Thompson revelled in his experience and found it an invaluable opportunity before his Australian Open qualifying match.
“My coach knows Bob Brett who coaches Cilic so I hit with him first. I then hit with Djokovic. After that, the tournament desk kept ringing. I hit with Djokvoic and it was tough, it felt like every ball he hit was hitting the baseline.” Jordan added, “The next day in qualifying I played against a guy roughly 800 places above me in the rankings, I had so much confidence. I won that match 9-7 in the third set, then lost to Ryan Sweeting in the second round of qualifying.”
Jordan got an up close and personal with a few more stars.
“Raonic was telling me where he was going to hit his serve and I still couldn’t get it. Lleyton was intense for two and a half hours but barely broke a sweat. Dolgopolov was the most fun. He was putting all kinds of spins on the ball. That slice backhand is a horrible joke, takes the ball places it shouldn’t go. We played a set, which I lost 6-3 on one break.”
Jordan and Jack are leaving the junior ranks and will find themselves on the circuit this year, contesting both Futures and Challenger events across Australia in the coming weeks.
Keep an eye out for them, there is no reason to believe that they wont be the big name in years to come, perhaps hitting with some young upstart before a tournament.