Melbourne, 3 October 2011 | tennis.com.au
Australian No. 1 men’s wheelchair player Ben Weekes (Strathfield, NSW) is heading to Hong Kong this October (15-16) to star in a series of wheelchair tennis exhibition matches at the prestigious Hong Kong Country Club against world No. 7 Robin Ammerlaan (NED).
“Robin and I will play each other in four matches in Hong Kong,” Weekes said. “This exhibition is being organised by Hubert Karrasch who has been involved for many years as a coach in wheelchair tennis, and is known particularly for his work with the Japanese players.”
With the London 2012 Paralympic Games less than a year away, the Australian right hander believes these matches are a great practice opportunity.
“Robin won gold at the Athens Paralympic Games, is a former world No. 1 player and has won our last three meetings,” said Weekes, who currently ranked 11 in the world.
“Coming from Australia there is not that many chances to train or have this kind of competitive practice without playing in a tournament, so with it being less than a year till the London Games it will be great to see how I am going against a top 10 player,” the tenacious 27-year-old added.
Weekes also hopes this exhibition will also help raise the profile of the sport. He also believes the announcement of the new-look Australian Wheelchair Tennis Tour, which will roll into action during the New Year in Brisbane (4-8 January), is a great initiative that will give Australian wheelchair players the opportunity to compete against the world’s best on home soil.
“I think it is great Tennis Australia has partnered with the Australian Paralympic Committee and existing tournaments to make this series possible,” Weekes said.
“With the 2012 London Paralympic Games just around the corner, this new tour is set to attract the world’s top players who will be chasing valuable Paralympic qualification points and a prize purse of $150,000,” he added.
Following Brisbane the Australian Wheelchair Tennis Tour will head to Adelaide (10-13 January), Melbourne (15-18 January) and Sydney (19-23 January) before returning to Melbourne for the invitational Australian Open (25-28 January).
Off court, Weekes is also achieving impressive results. He has been named as one of the 25 Vegemite ‘Toast of a Nation’ finalists, which honours extraordinary achievements of everyday people that exemplify the Aussie spirit.
“It is such a nice feeling to be chosen amongst these great people who are doing really great things in their respective fields,” Weekes said.
“I received a $2,000 cash prize for being a finalist, and it would be so great to win the people’s choice award, which is $10,000. It will help me reach my goals for London.
“To win a lot of people would have had to vote for me, which means that a lot of people would know about wheelchair tennis. I think the more I am recognised for my achievements, the easier it will be for my sport to be noticed and respected, and will help create more and opportunities for all the hard working players that are trying to make it on the tour,” Weekes added.