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.”
'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.