By Bonny Burrows
At just seven years of age, Katrina Malty has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in tennis.
A once in a lifetime opportunity to toss the coin this year’s Australian Open saw the Pakenham girl and aspiring tennis star take centre court on 17 January with Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
Katrina, who described her trip to the Australian Open as “the best day” of her school holidays, is a regular player at the Pakenham Regional Tennis Centre on Webster Way.
However, the 17 January match was her first taste of the big league.
The opportunity was thanks to the ANZ Tennis Hot Shots program, and according to mother Verona Atalla, has left Katrina with an even bigger love of the sport.
“She’s really into playing tennis, it’s her favourite game,” Ms Atalla said.
“But now (after the coin toss) she’s getting more into it, she’s more excited and keen to learn all about the game and the players.
“It’s made a big change on her life.”
Katrina, who was nominated to participate by her tennis club in recognition of her participation, enthusiasm and sportsmanship, was joined by her family for the game, who cheered her on from the sidelines.
“We all had the day off and went along. It was amazing; we all had a great day,” Ms Atalla said.
To commemorate the special day, Katrina was gifted with a special coin engraved with three time Paralympic gold medallist and ANZ Tennis ambassador Dylan Alcott on the heads side and a tennis ball on the tails side.
Katrina, a student at St Thomas Aquinas College in Tynong, was one of 170 Hot Shot participants who tossed the coin at the numerous games at the 2018 Australian Open.