29 May 2024

For 103 years, Griffith’s MIA Open has given hacks the chance to be heroes

| Oliver Jacques
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Mia Noad plays with mum Kathy Sparkes at the mum-daughter event at the 2023 MIA Open.

Mia Noad plays with mum Kathy Sparkes at the mum-daughter event at the 2023 MIA Open. Photo: Bernard Gray.

Despite being president of the Griffith Tennis Club, I’m terrible at the sport. I can’t hit a backhand, close my eyes when I try to smash, meekly tap my second serve over to get it in and turn slower than milk.

But as a huge fan of the game, I’ve often dreamt of competing in tournaments and standing on the winner’s podium.

Griffith’s 103-year-old MIA Open – held annually over the June long weekend since 1910 – gives chumps like me the chance to be a champion.

Although the tournament attracts some of Australia’s best emerging talent, it also caters to beginners, retirees, juniors, social players and everyone in between.

Two girls playing tennis

The MIA Open attracts players aged eight to 80. Photo: Bernard Gray.

Last year, I partnered with French citrus farmer Xavier Boucher to play in the C-grade men’s doubles event. We took out a tense final against two 10-year-olds from Albury. It was the first time I’d won any type of sporting tournament.

Some mocked us for beating up on kids, but the duo we edged were superb – they may win Wimbledon one day.

In 2009, former club president Danny Dossetor probably felt a bit guilty about beating a temperamental teenager from Canberra. His name was Nick Kyrgios. Dossetor’s now got a story to tell his grandkids.

READ ALSO Memories of when Nick Kyrgios played at Griffith’s MIA Open – and lost

Having never won a B-grade match in six years, I competed in a division appropriate for my skill level in 2023. In the C-grade singles, I was knocked out in the second round by a kid so young he was probably still shedding his baby teeth.

In the doubles, Boucher and I took on a pair dominating the juniors circuit. We were gracious in victory and offered to shout them a Fanta in the clubhouse after the final.

As Kramer from TV show Seinfeld once said when he dominated a primary school-aged karate class: “It’s not the size of your opponents that matters, it’s the ferocity.”

The MIA Open attracts 200 players of all shapes and sizes, from Canberra, Sydney, regional NSW and Victoria.

The most popular novelty event is called the centenary doubles. To compete, you find someone whose age adds up to 100 or more when combined with yours. For example, this year, 34-year-old teacher Lachlan Date will be teaming his dad Warwick, who is 66. In 2022, the centenary doubles was won by 78-year-old Trevor Horney, who had a cigarette between sets when partnered with his son Brad. Now aged 80, Trevor is giving the title another crack this year.

Trevor Hornery playing tennis

Trevor Hornery, 80, is still as sharp as ever at the net. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

There’s also a father-son, mother-daughter and parent-child division, which this year will feature former champion Andrew Noad and his girl Mia.

Family is a long-running theme of the competition. In 2023, 19 offspring of club patriarch Tom Condon played in the tournament.

READ ALSO Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for Canberra and Griffith eroded but ‘can be reinvigorated’

While the MIA Open is now booked out for 2024, our town’s tennis events always cater to all levels.

There are weekly competitions and social hits and an annual club championship held in October. We have enough grades and categories to ensure everyone has a shot at some silverware.

In 2022, two medical students who’d barely played a match between them won the B-grade men’s doubles title, because nobody else turned up to play in their division. Their names are now permanently etched on the club honours board.

Even if you don’t like playing tennis, it’s worth attending the MIA Open. There’ll be a carnival-like atmosphere where you can enjoy mind-blowing cakes, hot food and drinks while you take a seat and watch the action. You could see a superstar of the future, or share the joy with someone celebrating the first ever sporting win of their lives.

The 2024 MIA Open will be held over the King’s Birthday long weekend from Saturday 8 June to Monday 10 June. To learn more about how to get involved in the sport, message the Griffith Tennis Club Facebook page.

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