Thirteen years ago, Alicia Molik – one of WA’s most decorated tennis players – was playing in the third round of the French Open, had won the Australian Open Women’s Doubles the year before in 2005 and was the 2004 Athens Games bronze medallist.
On the other side of the world something special was about to happen as Cottesloe junior Jessie Culley (13) was born into a tennis dynasty.
Despite talent in athletics, dance, hockey and basketball as team sports, it was tennis that understandably became her love.
Her father David Culley was WA’s number one ranked player from 1989 to 1994, was ATP ranked and had won 10 State League men’s titles while her grandfather Rob Kilderry had made the third round in the Australian Open and is the doyen of WA tennis coaching and uncle Paul Kilderry was a former world number 67 in doubles with three titles in Netherlands and US.
But on February 16, Molik and Culley’s paths crossed.
Culley, one of the youngest to play State League, combined with Molik for Cottesloe in the Women’s State League.
“Playing with Alicia was a great opportunity and lots of fun,” Culley said.
“I enjoyed playing with her as she is an amazing player and taught me a lot.
“I learnt to not be afraid to cross and just go for it when I think it’s the right time, as well as standing more towards the middle and not hanging around the singles line.”
And they did not hang around long either, as they cruised through their doubles 6-0, 6-2 against the reigning premiers.
“Playing State League was a great experience as I learnt a lot and we were playing against players that are very talented,” Culley said.
“I learnt so much more about doubles playing with Alicia so it prepared me to be more confident for the camp and more confident at the net.”
Culley is one of four girls in this week’s Tennis Australia selection camp for the Under-14 World Junior teams and her match experience with Molik will hold her in great stead.
And on who she idolises?
“Like everyone I extremely love Roger Federer as he always gives it his all, he never gives up and fights for every point whether it’s training or a grand slam final,” Culley said.
With Molik in her corner and Federer as a role model, her elder sister Ruby – already an established Australian ranked junior – and with supportive parents, Culley has a lot going for her and is one to watch.
Highlights of this week’s State League matches: In the men’s Dalkeith continued their run with a 5-1 win over Alexander Park to take top spot after Peppermint Grove held Hensman Park to a draw, Royal Kings Park Tennis Club held on to third spot after winning all three of the three-setters against a determined Mt Lawley and Cottesloe had a 6-0 win over Bayswater at home.
In the women’s, Cottesloe sits clear of Royal Kings Park who beat third placed Blue Gum 4-2 but North Beach’s win over Hensman Park has the former back in the chase for fourth spot with only two rounds to go.