Australian Adam Kellerman has filled out the eight-man field for the Australian Open men’s wheelchair singles, after overcoming countryman Ben Weekes in a wildcard playoff on Monday.
Recently overtaking Weekes to be Australia’s highest-ranked wheelchair player, Kellerman was forced to recover from a one-set deficit to win 2-6 6-4 6-2 on Court 7.
The experienced Weekes made a strong start to the match, winning 10 of 11 points on his first serve in the opening set to gain the upper-hand.
“He tends to do that, he comes out swinging,” quipped Kellerman of his 2012 London Paralympics doubles’ partner.
After a bright start to the season - which included victory against Takuya Mika in the final of the season-opening Queensland Tennis Open - Kellerman failed to give in.
The 23-year old rallied in the second set, breaking Weekes’ serve twice as he worked hard to extend each rally.
“First set I wasn’t returning very well at all, so I really in the second focussed on getting those returns back and getting into the point,” said Kellerman of his turnaround after the first set.
Kellerman not only quelled the serve of his 29-year-old opponent, but lifted on his own serve to wrap the match up in just under two hours.
After becoming Australia’s top male player 2013, the world number 17 has plenty of confidence following his win in Brisbane.
“It was a great start, I had quite a long off-season, the longest I’ve had”
“I had training from September up till December when the Brisbane International started,” said Kellerman of his preparations for the new season.
It gives him hope of advancing in a main draw which includes the top-seven ranked players in the world.
“I feel a lot stronger and fitter on the court, and all my shots have improved so I'm feeling really good,” added Kellerman
After a first-round exit last Australian Open, Sydney-born Kellerman could not be more excited about the opportunity.
“It’s an amazing feeling, the Australian Open and all the other grand slams, that’s why any tennis player plays in the first place.”
Kellerman will find out his first round opponent when the draw is completed on Monday.
The entrant list is impressive, with world No.1 and 2013 champion Shingo Kunieda headlining a class field.
Kellerman, who recovered from cancer as a teenager but had his right hip removed as a result of infection he developed post-surgery, hopes that Monday's large crowd will increase and awareness of the sport that has given him so much will grow.
“I think it’s improving, but as a whole a lot of people the first time I tell them that I play wheelchair tennis they don’t even know its a sport”
“I try and spread the word as much as possible that wheelchair tennis is a sport and we’re professional athletes and we train just as hard as any other athletes,” said Kellerman of the sport’s profile.
Beyond the season-opening Grand Slam tournament, there is also the World Team Cup for the right-hander to look forward to.
“That’s definitely one of the focusses of the year.”
“I’m really excited because this year will hopefully be my first time playing as the number one,” said Kellerman, who helped Australia return to the World Group.
With a title, Australian Open main draw berth, and World Team Cup in May, 2014 bodes as a big year for the Australian.