Top ranked wheelchair tennis players Shingo Kunieda (JPN) and Aniek van Koot (NED) will headline the men’s and women’s fields for the Optus Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships 2014 at Melbourne Park from 22-25 January.
The first Grand Slam event of the year will feature the top seven ranked male and female players in the world as of the entry cut-off date, as well as one wildcard in each draw.
Kunieda heads into Australian Open 2014 after a successful year on tour, winning two Grand Slam titles. He scored a comfortable win over top seed Stephane Houdet (FRA) at Australian Open 2013, then took out the Wimbledon doubles final alongside Houdet in July.
Van Koot will also roll into Australian Open 2014 on a high after winning the Australian Open 2013 singles, the doubles title at Wimbledon, where she partnered with second seed Jiske Griffioen (NED), and most recently the singles crown at the US Open.
Next month Sydneysiders Ben Weekes (Strathfield, NSW) and Adam Kellerman (St Ives, NSW) will go head-to-head in a one-match showdown to secure the single men’s wildcard up for grabs. The pair will hit the court at Melbourne Park on Monday 20 January to fight for entry to next month’s Grand Slam.
Fellow Australian Dylan Alcott OAM will carry local hopes in the men’s quad event, with the Victorian awarded a wildcard to compete at his first Grand Slam event at Melbourne Park in January.
Alcott, who will be joined by the top three ranked players worldwide in the quad event, said he was thrilled to have been granted entry to his first major.
“It’s awesome to think I will be playing in the Open and great to have that wildcard,” he said.
“I’ve been training hard for the past three months, hitting every day and doing sessions in the gym. I’ve got five tournaments in the next three weeks so it’s full on. I’ve been doing a lot of hitting but not playing so many matches, so it’s just about getting some sets in before the Open."
Formerly a Paralympic basketballer, Alcott will compete for the first time in his hometown in front of his friends and family.
“I think most of my friends are looking forward to it… It’s a great feeling (to be playing in Melbourne). We’ve got some awesome facilities here."
A newcomer to the sport, Alcott took up tennis in July this year after making the switch from wheelchair basketball, having won Paralympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and silver in London 2012.
“I played basketball for so long, so as an athlete the switch to tennis was quite easy,” he said.
The total prize purse for the Optus Australian Open Wheelchair Championships is $USD90,000. The full field is listed below (figures in brackets indicate world ranking at cut-off date):
Shingo Kunieda (JPN) (1)
Stephane Houdet (FRA) (2)
Joachim Gerard (BEL) (3)
Gordon Reid (GBR) (4)
Maikel Scheffers (NED) (5)
Gustavo Fernandez (ARG) (6)
Michael Jeremiasz (FRA) (7)
Australian Wildcard TBC
Aniek van Koot (NED) (1)
Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) (2)
Yui Kamiji (JPN) (3)
Jiske Griffioen (NED) (4)
Marjolein Buis (NED) (5)
Kgothatso Montjane (RSA) (6)
Jordanne Whiley (GBR) (7)
Lucy Shuker (GBR) (8) (WC)
David Wagner (USA) (1)
Lucas Sithole (RSA) (2)
Andy Lapthorne (GBR) (3)
Dylan Alcott (AUS) (WC)