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Big things expected from young Australian tennis players Lizette Cabrera and Destanee Aiava.

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As tennis fans prepare for the Australian Open next week, they are hanging their hopes on a new crop of young players to boost the country’s waning success internationally.

When the Open kicks off in Melbourne on Monday, all eyes will be on the big four — Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — all tourists on Australian soil.

Australia’s accomplishments internationally have declined in recent years, with only one Australian grand slam winner in the past 15 years.

The head of women’s tennis at Tennis Australia, Nicole Pratt, believes the country’s geography is part of the problem.

“I think it’s tough being from Australia,” she said.

“I think it’s one of our greatest challenges as Australian tennis players is that we’re so far from tournaments throughout the world.

“Yes, we have four weeks of events here in Australia, but the other 11 months is really outside of this country.”

Despite that, she is expecting big things from the current crop of young players.

Two of those making their grand slam debuts as wildcards next week are 19-year-old Lizette Cabrera and 16-year-old Destanee Aiava.

“I think Destanee and Lizette have a great shot of winning at least a first round at the Australian Open,” Ms Pratt said.

“They’ve proven over the last couple of weeks that they are capable of beating top 100 players.

“They’ve been waiting a long time for this moment and they’ll be excited and it’ll just be a case of whether or not they can contain their emotions and use their emotions in the right way.”

Lizette Cabrera
Lizette Cabrera says she wants to win at least one round at the Australian Open.

'I truly believed I'd be able to get there'

Cabrera grew up in Townsville before moving to Brisbane to train at the National Academy.

Her parents, who are from the Philippines, are both working in an abattoir to support her dream.

Cabrera clawed her way up more than 800 places in the rankings in just 12 months.

"I set a goal in January last year to be at the Australian Open this year and I was ranked 1,062 and I think a lot of people were kind of like, 'You know, that's a bit ambitious'," she said.

"But you know, I truly believed that I'd be able to get there."

Her ambition did not stop at just getting a wildcard. Cabrera wants to win at least one round.

"Anyone's beatable really, if you have the right attitude and you execute on the day," she said.

"I'm definitely not satisfied with just playing, I actually want to win a round."

Destanee Aiava
Destanee Aiava after winning her first round match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the USA at the Brisbane International last week.

'She loves the attention'

The talk of the tournament has been another wildcard entry, Aiava.

Her mum and coach Rosie Aiava said Destanee was lapping up the limelight.

"I think she loves the whole attention, it's all about me," she said.

"I'm enjoying it as well because she's loving it, but my job is to make sure that she has that little bit of fun and we'll keep her grounded and get back into the hard work again."

Pratt said that was important, as many promising young players get overwhelmed by early success and never make it any further.

"All of a sudden there's media attention, the people around her can start to think, 'Oh well she's made it, she's there.' And that is so far from the truth — there is a long, long way to go," she said.

"So for both Destanee and Lizette I think it's really important the people around them keep things in perspective, each and every day just work on getting their games better and the results tend to take care of themselves."

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