Saturday, 09 October 2021

Celebrating a Centenary of Tennis at Memorial Drive

First, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we are gathering and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Rod and I are pleased to join you this afternoon to celebrate the Centenary of Tennis at Memorial Drive, and to unveil the commemorative Centenary Wall.

We both love tennis – and perhaps it was the prospect of this special event today that had us picking up rackets last weekend for what was possibly the first time in twenty years and having a hit on a rather uneven grass court in the Barossa.

It is an honour to walk in the footsteps of one of my predecessors, Sir William Ernest George Archibald Wiegall, who officially opened the lawn tennis courts almost a century ago to the day.

Since then, the home of tennis in Adelaide has innovated, progressed and become an integral part of this impressive sporting precinct alongside the Torrens.

My mother, now in her eighties, recalled to me this morning how much she loved watching Ken Rosewall play at Memorial Drive, describing tennis here as the highlight of her summers.

In 1974, I remember being captivated by the brilliant baseline play of tennis great Bjorn Borg.

I recall a sense of pride that such star power was putting Adelaide and our tennis facilities on the international map.

And who could forget when the Drive rocked to the sounds of Elton John, the Bee Gees and Led Zeppelin?

Just as Memorial Drive has been a trailblazer for tennis, the global sport has been a trailblazer for gender equality, something I am keen to promote as Governor.

In the modern era, tennis has been at the forefront of equality in prizemoney and fostered our appreciation of the immense skill involved in wheelchair tennis.

The new Centenary Wall brings together much of your proud history and entrepreneurial spirit in words and pictures:

  • The journey from the South Australian Lawn Tennis Association to the Memorial Drive Tennis club.
  • The Davis Cups, the Australian Championships, the Australian Hardcourt Men’s Championships, the headline concerts.
  • Club luminaries such as the late Bob Piper.
  • The progress from long, genteel white tennis dresses to today’s streamlined ergonomic gear.
  • Those who honed their skills here as they carved out International success: Lleyton Hewitt, Mark Woodforde, Alicia Molik to name a few.

I’m told that American great Arthur Ashe, declared the lawn courts were the best he’d ever played on – and that included Wimbledon.

More recently, the facilities next door were such that International stars such as Djokovic and Williams could practise under strict COVID quarantine restrictions on the eve of the Australian Open in Melbourne, and play a charity match.

And the two new grandstands and amenities on the Tennis SA centre courts will take this precinct into the future.

These walls tell your story and I am sure will prompt many memories and discussions.

There’s something enduring about the written word and hard copy photographs.

And let us not forget that history is more than milestones, it’s people.

I’m delighted to have met and to be presenting Honorary Life membership of the Memorial Drive Tennis Club to Henry Young.

At the venerable age of 98, he remains a young-at-heart and an active tennis player. Well played Sir.

I also acknowledge and pay tribute to all the members, office holders, and volunteers who are the life and soul of Memorial Drive Tennis Club.

May that sense of pride, achievement and community endure for the next 100 years.

It now gives me great pleasure to perform my first unveiling in as Governor.

It is certainly the largest unveiling I have ever witnessed, and I am reasonably confident that record will hold well into the future.

I declare the Centenary Wall open for viewing!

Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC


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