Adam Kellerman earned his place in his third straight Australian Open men’s singles main draw on Monday when the 24-year-old beat fellow Sydneysider Ben Weekes 64 61 in the wild card play-off between Australia’s top two ranked wheelchair tennis players.
In a contest fittingly played out on Australia Day, Kellerman claimed the first service hold of the contest to take a 4-1 advantage in the opening set. Although Weekes battled back to get to within a game of Kellerman, he crucially missed the opportunity to level at 4-4 and world No. 15 Kellerman maintained his advantage to take the set in 35 minutes.
Kellerman went on to race to a 5-0 second set lead before closing out his fourth successive win over Weekes since 2012.
“I was really nervous. I’ve been nervous for a few days leading into it, just thinking about it. Ben’s a very good player. Leading into it I was just focusing on playing good tennis and I felt like I really did that today on the court,” said the Australian No. 1, who was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 13 and subsequently needed to have had his right hip removed before taking up wheelchair tennis when he was 16.
“In the second set I felt great. I got in the zone, I was hitting really good spots. In the first set it was a bit more difficult. Ben fought back hard. The first set was really challenging. Luckily in the second set I managed to pick up my game and take it to another level.”
Former world No. 10 Weekes had been trying to earn his place in the wheelchair draw at Melbourne Park for the ninth time sand the first time since 2012, having made his debut at the first Grand slam of the year in 2005 when he was among the players to then take part in the event known as the Wheelchair Classic 8s at the Australian Open, but was unable to break the sequence of wins Kellerman has registered in their head-to-heads since 2012.
“We’ve been training together pretty much full-time for the last three years. We know each other’s games really well. The last few times I’ve beaten him but before that it was pretty much one-sided going his way. We’ve been going to Paralympics and World Team Cups together for years,” added Kellerman. “It’s really challenging. We train with each other five days a week. He knows my weaknesses and I know his. Whoever gets to that person’s weakness the most is usually the one who wins.”
On his Grand Slam debut in 2013, Kellerman reached the men’s doubles final at Melbourne Park, partnering Sweden’s Stefan Olsson. He is now hoping that he can find similar success, if not go one better, in the men’s singles draw.
“I would really like to win the Australian Open. It’s always been a dream of mine to win a Grand Slam. I haven’t made it past the first round the last two times I’ve been in so I’ll start with winning the first round and I’ll take it from there.”
With his place in the main daw safely secured, Kellerman will play world No. 2 Stephane Houdet on Wednesday for a place in the semifinals, while two former champions will go head-to-head in the top half of the draw as seven-time Australian Open champion and world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda begins his title defence against 2012 champion Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands.
Kunieda and Gustavo Fernandez, last year’s runner-up and a two-time Grand Slam finalists in 2014, could yet meet again in the his year’s semifinals, but world No. 4 Fernandez will look no further than his opening match against Britain’s world No. 3 Gordon Reid, while world No. 5 Nicolas Peifer and world No. 6 Joachim Gerard will go head-to-head for the right to face Houdet or Kellerman.
At least one Dutch player will feature in the women’s singles semifinals after world No. 3 Jiske Griffioen was drawn to meet her countrywoman Marjolein Buis, while there will also be a German presence in the last four after Sabine Ellerbroc was drawn to start her Australian title defence against wild card Katharina Kruger.
Ellerbrock and Kruger are drawn in the top half of the draw alongside world No. 1 Yui Kamiji and Sharon Walraven of the Netherlands, meaning the semifinals could feature a rematch of the 2014 final between Ellerbrock and Kamiji.
Another enticing match-up sees world No. 2 Aniek van Koot and world No. 5 Jordanne Whiley meet for the first time since their NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters semifinal last November, a contest van Koot went on to win after saving three match points in the second.
By ITF Media