Former News sports journalist MARC McGOWAN, who grew up in Narre Warren North, is on his dream assignment this week; covering all the action at the Australian Open. He caught up with rising star Omar Jasika, who has fond memories of belting balls around the courts of St Paul Apostle Tennis Club in Endeavour Hills.
YOU might once have driven past and caught a glimpse of a talented kid striking balls at St Paul Apostle Tennis Club.
That same kid played in front of thousands of spectators at this year’s Australian Open, and is considered a frontline act of Generation Next.
Former Endeavour Hills resident Omar Jasika, Nick Kyrgios’ brother from another mother, is on the fast track to greatness – having claimed his maiden grand slam main draw victory last Monday.
The 18-year-old wildcard’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 defeat of world No.76 Illya Marchenko earned him a shot at 2008 Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Jasika’s singles fortnight ended there – under lights on Margaret Court Arena, no less – but he was back on Thursday to partner Kyrgios in the doubles.
“Nick is like my big brother. I’ve known him for a while now and we’re pretty tight,” Jasika told the News.
“He’s stayed at my house, I’ve stayed at his house before, and we train together and tell each other our deepest secrets. It’s good to have a friendship like that.
“We grew up together and have our own inside jokes … Nick’s something special now; he’s playing some good tennis and he’ll always back me up when he can.”
Jasika has fond memories of his days training at St Paul Apostle, the same tennis club that propelled one-time wheelchair tennis No.1 Daniela Di Toro to fame.
“There’s one court on the side and I used to train there. It was fun. I had the court by myself and it felt like you could do your own thing and train,” he said.
“We just liked the area and we were closer to my grandma and I was able to train. I’ve got a bit better since those days.”
Jasika is intent on returning to the Australian Open as a top-100 player, but said improving his physicality and dealing better with the mental toll of long stints on the road were the keys to that.
The 2014 US Open junior singles and doubles champion will move inside the top 300 in the men’s rankings this month.
“It was definitely the best week of my life and I can’t wait to come back next year – it’s my favourite slam,” Jasika said.
“The crowd just made me smile. Every day I couldn’t wait to wake up to play in front of a huge crowd. It was fun, and definitely worth it.”