TENNIS LEGEND: Australian tennis great Mal Anderson with his wife Daphne.
TENNIS LEGEND: Australian tennis great Mal Anderson with his wife Daphne. Rhiannon Tuffield

Tennis great Mal Anderson has valuable advice to pass on

HAVING grown up in a small rural town, tennis great Mal Anderson knows all too well what it takes for young country athletes to break into the gruelling world of professional tennis.

"Well, I think what they've got to do is go out and enjoy," Mal said.

"When they get a little better, they shouldn't try and set goals too high - always get better step by step, but don't push yourself too hard. You never go up a hill like that."

Mal first started playing tennis at the age of eight - many years before he won the US championships, landing the title of second-best male tennis player in the world as an amateur at 23 years old.

"I turned pro and I think it made me a better player because I was playing the champions of yesterday and I was really young," he said.

"It was a good stepping stone and a learning process for me."

Mal grew up in the small town of Theodore in Central Queensland on a cattle property. He never knew why he was so fascinated with tennis.

"I don't know why, but I was always addicted to tennis before I could even play," he said.

"We put a court down on our property and my whole family played."

As a young man he perfected his technique with the help of Australian tennis coach Charlie Hollis and mixed with the likes of Rod Laver and Blackbutt local Roy Emerson, later marrying his sister Daphne.

Daphne grew up on a dairy farm at Blackbutt and used to have a hit on the local court after school with her brother.

While her brother and husband were both serious about the sport, Daphne made a name for herself in 1953 when she became the number one junior girl tennis player in the State.

Mal had many fond memories of Roy Emerson, who, he said, was a great character who liked to have a lot of fun.

"I remember in 1955 we were in New York and some of the girls got talking to Roy and they were very naive," he said.

"Roy was telling them about the kangaroos back home and told them, 'When mum goes shopping she doesn't take a trolley - she takes a kangaroo and puts it in the pouch'.

"They walked away and absolutely couldn't believe it."

While his time on the world stage may be many years behind him, at 80 years old Mal still likes to get out and play a game, even though he's had both hips replaced.

"I used to do a lot of running - I'd run morning and afternoon, but I enjoyed running and I did that until I was 55 and my hip went out and I couldn't run anymore," he said.

"I do like to get out and have a hit but I just don't trust my body - I don't want to have a fall and break something."

When watching tennis, Mal hoped the audience would realise that tennis players were human beings and not machines.

He said the way the game was now played had changed a lot since his time, with powerful equipment taking the place of finesse.

"For the young ones getting into tennis, I'd say go and enjoy it and just remember when you go out on the court that you're representing not only yourself, but you're representing your family," he said.

"That's the best thing I can recommend."

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