Lleyton Hewitt and François Vogelsberger face off against some fresh foes near Rod Laver Arena
Ahead of the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) headed for Rod Laver Arena at the home of the Australian Open for the pre-event – meeting up with former World No.1 tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt and star coach François Vogelsberger for a match with a few differences. Arriving in style, the two riders headed in over Tanderrum Bridge on two Ducatis – ready to meet their match.
Heading out on court, after an initial Warm Up and some friendly words at the net it was down to business – with Miller and Dovi teaming up vs the pros. Unfair odds? Some would say, and despite a few choice shots that just about had Hewitt’s team outfoxed, the MotoGP™ riders found themselves broken – in a serve sense of course – and it was time to try and level the playing field a little.
Time out taken and ready to kick it up a gear, the gloves then came off for Dovizioso and Miller as Hewitt put them on. Donning one of Miller’s, the former Wimbledon and US Open champion now had to try it with a bit more of a handicap – but still, it was to no avail as the pros came out swinging once again. Next up? Even more of a challenge.
Although it was harder to hold the racket in the glove, it took another level up with the addition of Miller’s helmet. Pulling it on and getting used to the extra weight, Hewitt was then facing two different challenges as he tried to serve accurately looking through the visor – and stay nimble enough to return. The riders geared themselves up to give it their best shot and finally, finally managed to slice one past the pros.
So that’s it for Melbourne and now it’s time to head south through the state of Victoria as Phillip Island beckons for another spectacular battle. Thursday welcomes the riders to the pre-event Press Conference as well as a couple more Aussie-themed events before practice begins on Friday, and the lights go out for the race at 16:00 local time on Sunday (GMT+11).
“It was exciting to have Andrea and Jack here at the home of the Australian Open and especially in the city of Melbourne. Victoria has so many fantastic sporting events throughout the year and this weekend these guys head out to Phillip Island. They weren’t bad at tennis! But they got better as they went on. Playing with the glove and helmet was a first! The hardest thing was the glove because it doesn’t bend a lot and it was hard to grip my racket, so it certainly gave the boys an advantage.”
Hewitt is also headed to the Island this weekend: “You hear Phillip Island is one of the best racetracks in the world so it’s great to be able to go and experience it, especially after meeting Jack. It’s important for the home nation to have someone they can barrack for, and I hope he has a fantastic week!”
“It’s really nice, especially to come here and play – although I don’t know if you could call it playing, I think I was more watching Lleyton play! But it was incredible, it’s great to be back here in Australia, and I’m looking forward to another weekend in front of the home fans. I think we can do a really good job and hopefully improve on last time out. It’s a really cool pre-event! Lleyton is going to come down and watch the Grand Prix so I hope I can put on a show for him and the rest of the home fans.”
“We were lucky, it’s nice to meet a champion. I love to speak to champions from different sports because I’m interested in understanding all the details. It’s a good event, we had a good match and we lost every time – or almost! And it was funny to see him playing with the helmet, that was strange! But it’s nice to have had this event in this nice city. We have two or three days after each weekend before the next one, I love Japan and I stayed there a day and then I flew to Melbourne. I love Australia and it’s nice to spend some time here before we go to Phillip Island tomorrow.”
And about that race weekend ahead? ‘DesmoDovi’ is eager to get going:
“I’m happy to have this race now because it’ll be the perfect test to see where we are now. For sure we’ve improved since last year and we’re very interested to analyse it and understand it, to be ready for next year…”
Dovi on Miller?
“With Jack you always have a good time – playing sports, out at dinner, motocross…he’s a nice guy!”
Miller on Dovi:
“It was good – but I think he was definitely the number one rider in our team today!”
Words and images courtesy of www.motogp.com