By Lance Jenkinson
A beacon of blue has Dandenong Tennis Club members abuzz and itching to get back to their club.
The wait for Covid-19 numbers to dip across the state has been even more excruciating knowing the spoils that await them upon return to the Bennet Street club.
For years, Dandenong has been home to weary courts that were both an eyesore and unsafe, but earlier this year they were presented with plush new blue courts, similar to those at the Australian Open.
Just as Dandenong was starting to show off and make use of the courts, the pandemic struck and lockdowns began.
Club president Dexter Manuel was shattered at having to close down the courts for winter.
“It was unfortunate timing,” he said.
“We had about a week or two on the courts, there was no competition, just a couple of lessons and then we had to close it all down.”
The wait will be worth it once Dandenong gets the green light from Tennis Victoria to return.
Members will finally have courts to play on that they can be proud of, and will do so without fear of rolling an ankle.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Manuel said.
“Previous to this, the courts were absolutely terrible.
“They were cracked, they were almost like public courts, but now the courts look just like the Australian Open courts.
“With the old courts, there was a big hill at the back of the court, so you’d hit the ball on one side and it would roll back during a point and you’d step on it and fall over, but that’s all gone now.
“Now it’s beautiful blue and there’s heaps of space, so you won’t hit the fence when you’re going for a point!”
Dandenong is prepared to apply any protocols outlined by the Chief Health Officer and Tennis Victoria to get back on court.
Health and safety during the pandemic will be Manuel’s priority.
Group numbers will be restricted at training, visitors will need to sign in, sanitiser will be required and equipment sharing will not be allowed.
Perhaps the easiest aspect for tennis to adapt to will be social distancing rules with it being a non-contact sport.
“We’re following the protocols listed by the government,” Manuel said.
“We really worked in stride with the council and they gave us pretty clear rules in terms of what we had to do.
“Everything is strictly in place and our head coach [Robert Hilbig] is all over it.”
Once the protocols have been conveyed to members and it becomes second nature, Manuel is confident Dandenong Tennis Club can operate safely and has big plans ahead for this summer and beyond.
“The location is amazing, it’s in the middle, it’s convenient, it’s next to the ovals, it’s next to everything,” Manuel said.
“It was just the courts that were the problem and now we’ve got that done, we can focus on better things, we’ve got plans for future development and hopefully this summer it’s going to be amazing and it’s going to shine bright just like Melbourne Park.”