by Luke Voogt
Jack Hagebols, who turns nine on Saturday, hopes to stand alongside tennis idol ‘Rafa’ Nadal during his coin-flipping duties at this year’s Australian Open.
“I like Nadal – he’s the best player in the world,” the East Geelong youngster told the Independent yesterday.
Jack is one of 180 ‘hot shots’ Australia-wide who will walk onto the court to toss the coin during the Grand Slam, which begins this month.
“He was pretty excited,” said his dad and long-time tennis coach Mark.
“He’s really looking forward to it – it’s a bit of a birthday present for him.”
Jack plays at St Mary’s Tennis Club, where he has spent the past few years developing his game with the help of dad.
“His forehand is probably his best shot and his serving is improving all the time,” Mark said.
“He reads the play quite well but he does that in all sports.”
Jack was “quite a good” all-round sportsman, playing soccer, basketball and football, his dad said.
But after being involved in tennis for 50 years and coaching for the past 25, Mark hoped the once-in-a-lifetime experience would sway his son toward tennis.
“I think this will open up his eyes a bit more, going to the open,” he said.
“I’ve taken teams over there previously and kids are over the moon about it, it’s something they can remember for a lifetime.”
Jack will flip a coin featuring Australian former World number one Evonne Goolagong Cawley, in a match yet to be determined by organisers.
“The coin toss at the beginning of an Australian Open match is always a special moment,” the tennis legend said.
“I can’t wait to see the joy on the kids’ faces as they take part in this rare opportunity.”
Jack scored the gig by being part of Tennis Australia’s Hot Shots development program, which has 702,509 children aged three to 12 playing nationwide.