Australian teenager Destanee Aiava will be focusing on improving her game at the professional level at the 2017 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic as she prepares to be the first player born this century to play in a Grand Slam.
The 16-year-old will play in the first women’s match in two decades at the traditional pre-Australian Open event, which kicks off tomorrow and runs until Friday.
A second-round appearance at the Brisbane International gave Aiava some confidence leading in to the 29th edition of the tournament at Kooyong, where she is a Kooyong Foundation scholarship holder.
“I took out a lot of confidence (from Brisbane) and knowing that I do belong at the professional level – just a lot more experience,” Aiava said.
Aiava said she was still getting used to the spot light and attention her dramatic rise has delivered.
“Yeah a bit (getting used to the media), it’s still a bit overwhelming but I’m having fun with it all.
“I reckon having a more professional attitude towards everything I do… I think off the court mostly, like doing all the one percenters properly and recovery and not being distracted with my phone,” she laughed.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on not winning or losing but playing a great game – not so much the result just trying to improve my game in every match, winning is not really important for me right now.”
The men’s field is headlined by Belgian young gun and defending Kooyong champion David Goffin who is ranked number 11 in the world.
Australian Bernard Tomic also features in an elite field that contains six top-30 players, including world number 18 Richard Gasquet winner of the Hopman Cup for France.
Andrew Whittington is another local and Kooyong scholarship holder that is using the tournament to prepare for his first singles appearance at a Grand Slam as a wildcard.
“It’s another milestone for me, you know I’ve been at Kooyong for many years so I’ve been at this Kooyong Classic watching as a kid and now playing is going to be really fun,” Whittington explained.
“I had a really good year (in 2016), moved my ranking up to about 170 so I’ve just been training really hard and getting in the gym so hopefully I can roll it on this year as well.”
King of Kooyong and official tournament ambassador Pat Cash is thrilled to be supporting the tournament and is confident it will only become more of a desirable option for the game’s best players in the coming years.
“It’s great to be back at Kooyong, it’s certainly a place with very fond memories for me,” Cash explained.
“My first tennis lesson ever, to sneaking in the back through St Kevin’s and getting into the Australian Open for free.
“We’ve got a great field this year and I’ve been around the circuit sort of spreading the word about Kooyong because I’ve always believed this is a fantastic tournament for the players to lead into the Australian Open.
“I think over the next few years we’ll see it getting bigger and bigger.”
Despite the usual last-minute changes to the draw due to injuries tournament directorPeter Johnston is more than satisfied with the depth of talent that will be on show.
“I think it’s going to be a really good one, we’re really happy with the player field we’ve assembled both on and off the court,” Johnston said.
“We’ve got Destanee Aiava who a couple of weeks ago I’d never met – heard a little bit about her and now she’s the AO wildcard winner and also a product of the Kooyong Foundation here.
“It seemed a natural fit to invite her to the tournament… we’ve also got Andrew Whittington another production of the foundation and has the AO wildcard.”
Former world number two and now Indian Wells tournament director Tommy Haas was recently added to the men’s draw as the German prepares for his final Australian Open.
“We’ve got men and women this year,” Johnston added.
“There’s so much activation outside, we’ve got the Priceline Sisterhood Foundation Day on the Wednesday, Kid’s Day on the Tuesday and we’ve got more matches each day.
“So, I think there’s going to be something really here for everyone.”
The 2017 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic kicks off on Tuesday January 10 with Kids Day where two children (16 and under) per paying adult enter free of charge.
Throughout the tournament fans can enjoy Kooyong Common, play Stella Artois tether tennis, watch the action from the Stella Artois Eastern Terrace or grab a gourmet bite in the Grossi Garden Pavilion.
To round off the 2017 event, on Friday night there will be an Evening on the Lawn for Kooyong Members and their guests in a private function after the finals.
The 2017 Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic is proudly supported by principal partner, Priceline Pharmacy, Platinum Sponsors Jaguar and Pimm’s with support from Thai Airways, Schweppes, Stella Artois, Bonamy’s Cider, Lanson and Agnew Wines. The Seven Network will broadcast all four days of Kooyong’s action right across Australia.
- Tickets are now on sale through Ticketek – www.ticketek.com.au
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- For media information please contact Priceline Pharmacy Kooyong Classic media:
- David Culbert T: + 61 3 9822 7110 • +61 (0)417 272 641 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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