Fond memories for Dementieva as stars serve up kids' treat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2008, 12:00am

For the few hundred children gathered on Victoria Park's centre court yesterday it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Some grabbed it, some bottled it, but no matter which way their shots went you can bet each one will always remember the day they were given the chance to trade shots with some of the best players in the world.

Even more refreshing for those looking on was that the players - Ana Ivanovic, Anna Chakvetadze, Daniela Hantuchova, Elena Dementieva, Peng Shuai and Caroline Wozniacki - seemed to be having a ball as well.

None more so than Dementieva, at 26 a veritable veteran of the tour. A seven-time visitor to these shores - and a one-time winner of the event - the Russian world number 11 said the LCSD-sponsored clinic was one of the things about her Hong Kong jaunts she most enjoyed. The reason was the afternoons always brought the memories flooding back. 'I think I was about seven years old when my mum first took me to the local tennis club,' she said. 'I just remember how exciting it was with all the kids playing, and the feeling you got when the ball hit the racquet. That feeling has never left. I fell in love with the game the first time I hit a ball.'

Dementieva said she could see the same excitement in the eyes peeking at her from over the net yesterday. 'You can see they are so excited. It gives a buzz to all us players.'

Dementieva was a little less forthcoming when it came to her love affair with Hong Kong. 'It's a bit embarrassing,' she said. 'But Hong Kong has been great to me. My whole family is here and we had a wonderful new year's [celebration]. I just hope people never get sick of me here.'