Regional

Prince steers talk from cricket to tennis

By AAP Newswire

Prince Edward has deftly avoided an awkward conversation about Australia's cricketing woes while chatting to teenagers about tennis in Melbourne.

Queen Elizabeth's youngest son visited the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club at Richmond on Saturday to play real tennis - the original indoor sport from which modern-day tennis is derived.

While talking to a group of school students participating in the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award - which recognises youth achievements - the Earl of Wessex asked them what sports they played.

"Lawn bowls," one boy said.

"Very good, that's a bit different. Lots of patience," his Royal Highness said.

He then asked: "Any cricketers?"

A brief silence followed.

"Not really," a boy answered.

"I don't think we'd want to admit being cricket players nowadays."

"Oh, I see. Oh, no, don't worry about that," Prince Edward quickly replied.

Shortly afterwards His Royal Highness paired up with 18-year-old Henry Edwards to play a doubles match against Samantha El-Helou, 16, and Blake Hillebrand, 18.

El-Helou admitted feeling nervous about playing against a member of the royal family, but that did not stop her and Hillebrand from winning the match 8-3.

"I was just trying to tell myself 'it's just another game'," she told AAP.

"It was a really good experience, he was really lovely and friendly."

Edwards hoped the prince's visit would inspire more people to try real tennis, which he described as a cross between tennis and squash.

"It was very exciting. We had a good game," he said.

"He's quite a jokester, actually. He includes a few jokes every now and then."

Saturday's match is one of five that Prince Edward will play during his tour to promote the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award and encourage more youths to get involved.

"You don't get a visit like this very often," said the Award's Victorian executive officer Stephen Mason.

Prince Edward arrived in Melbourne on Friday and will visit five cities while in Australia, attending 32 events in eight days.

He will also attend the Commonwealth Games, like big brother Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, who have already visited Queensland.