For young Aussie Adam Kellerman, the dream of competing in a Grand Slam tournament on home turf is about to become reality.
“I’m very excited, I mean, it’s the dream of any player to play in a Grand Slam, so I’m very happy to be able to do it,” he said.
Kellerman, ranked 20 in the world, toppled compatriot Ben Weekes 6-4 6-2 to earn a spot in the main draw of the men’s wheelchair singles wildcard playoff on Monday.
Despite heading into the match as the underdog against world No.17 Weekes – Australia’s highest ranked player – Kellerman’s consistency and power from the baseline proved too strong in the straight sets victory.
“I’m very happy with how I played; I went out there with a plan and made it happen.”
The Sydney-born Kellerman , who represented his country in both singles and doubles at the 2012 Paralympics, was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma cancer in his leg at the age of 13.
Subsequent infections and multiple operations resulted in the removal of his right hip.
“I was always a very sporty kid when I was younger and I couldn’t play any sport for three years. I didn’t even know about wheelchair tennis, I didn’t even know if I was eligible,” he said.
Writing on his website, Kellerman says he suffered “depression which lasted for 2 years until I found wheelchair tennis.” A chance visit to a Wheelchair Sports New South Wales come-and-try day was what it took to spark the passion.
“I just started playing and just loved it straight away,” he recalled.
He entered the junior circuit in 2007, before playing his first match on the ITF tour at the South Pacific Wheelchair Open a year later.
The 22-year-old paid tribute to the unwavering support and encouragement of his family and his mother, father and younger brother were first on scene to offer congratulations post-match.
“They flew down from Sydney last night to come and watch today and they’ll probably stay for the next couple of days to see me play in the Australian Open,” he said with a grin, as if coming to terms with the prospect of competing at Melbourne Park.
He faces a tough initiation though. Only the best of the best do battle in the majors and in a field of just eight players, Kellerman is the second youngest.
“It’s a tough draw, I mean, it’s the top seven in the world … and then there’s me,” he laughed.
“I’m not too far away (rankings-wise) but there always seems to be a big gap between the top five and anyone else.
“The biggest difference on court is probably their movement, being able to get to a position to hit all the shots.
But Kellerman goes into his Slam debut with absolutely nothing to lose and as any athlete, sports fan or commentator will tell you – once you get out on the court, anything can happen.
Wheelchair draws will be available here shortly.