Wheelchair profile: Sarah Calati
Emerging wheelchair tennis talent Sarah Calati reflects on how she got into the sport and how she balances the demands of professional tennis, touring, training and a busy social life.
“I had a motorcycle accident back in 2006. I sustained injuries predominantly to my right leg which resulted in amputation … [My prosthetist] was very much involved with the Australian Paralympic Committee and many of his clients were paralympians. He encouraged me to get in to a sport. Tennis had always interested me and I had played a bit when I was younger, so I knew the basics. Through his contacts I met national wheelchair tennis coach Greg Crump, and it all started from there [around 2009].
“The first time I played, I met Greg at Albert Reserve tennis courts. He bought a second-hand sports wheelchair and I had my old Volkl racquet. I had very little experience pushing a wheelchair, so I found it extremely hard to coordinate everything. I knew this was going to be a challenge but I loved it and I wanted to keep playing and get better.
“After taking up wheelchair tennis my new idol became Dani Di Toro [before that it was Andre Agassi]. She was a former world No.1 and had many wins under her belt. I met her at a training camp not long after I first started. It was a little intimidating meeting someone so accomplished in their sport but I soon felt comfortable as she came across as this awesomely nice person who very willingly would give helpful and encouraging advice, and still does now.
“Playing wheelchair tennis has enriched my life by giving me opportunity to travel all over the world and compete professionally. I am fortunate enough to be able to go to all these different countries every year and do something I love. I also get to meet lots of new people along the way, who are also trying to achieve the same thing … Even if it’s not tennis, playing any sort of sport can open so many doors. Just give it a go.
“Financially, tennis is an incredibly expensive sport, mainly due to the amount of travel but also equipment too. Unfortunately casual gardening doesn’t support me enough, so finding funds to back all the expenses like flights, entry fees, accommodation, etcetera is a huge challenge.
“It’s tough trying to find a good balance. I work four days a week for a landscaping business as a gardener and then train in the afternoons. So by the end of the day I’m pretty exhausted. But I enjoy doing both and financially I can’t support myself just playing tennis. Weekends I keep for some down time and catching up with friends.
“My family and friends really inspire me. They’re all so hardworking and supportive. This really motivates me and I feel really lucky to have such amazing people around.”