September 27, 2023

Open Court


Late in the Oz Open, juniors get their chance with the big boys

MELBOURNE – When Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka met in the Monte Carlo Masters final a few years ago, they warmed up together before the big match

At your standard, average ATP Tour event, there aren’t too many players left to hit up with if you don’t think your coach is up to it. Given their long-time friendship, it was no big deal. But they’re not doing it before this Australian Open semi.

At Slams, typically the last few men left standing will find juniors to hit with (this does not apply, it goes without saying, to the ladies. The just don’t do that).

Wednesday, as he went out for a hit before he and Wawrinka mix it up again, the lucky hitter was Aussie junior Blake Ellis, who just turned 18 a few weeks ago.

Here’s what it looked like.

Flash back to the 2008 Australian Open, and Federer also was in the semis and preparing to play Novak Djokovic for the seventh time in his career (they’ve had 38 more since then).

He was set to warm up with a young American junior called Ryan Harrison, then ranked in the top 10 on the ITF. But Harrison (who was in the semis of the boys’ singles) ended up having a scheduling conflict and couldn’t make the date.

Who stepped in? This guy, who lost in the 1st round of singles to Bradley Klahn but was in the boys’s doubles final with Cesar Ramirez.

God, they BOTH look like babies.

Another Canadian, lefty Denis Shapovalov, had the privilege of hitting with the Fed before he faced another southpaw, Jurgen Melzer, in the first round here. Feels like two months ago, doesn’t it?

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