Weekes ready to shine at Australian Open
After a focus on development in 2020, Ben Weekes is excited to test his improvement against the world’s best this week at Melbourne Park.
In a professional career spanning 20 years, Ben Weekes has played in many different places across the world. But according to the world No.41, none compare to Melbourne Park.
The 36-year-old Weekes lists the Australian Open as his favourite tournament.
“It’s the reason I get up early each morning to train,” the Sydney-based Weekes told tennis.com.au. “It’s what we work for all year, to play in the Grand Slams and the biggest tournaments.”
Weekes, who is a wildcard entry in the Australian Open 2021 men’s wheelchair singles competition, is determined to perform strongly this week.
“It would mean a lot to me and the people who have been working with me and supporting me,” he said.
The four-time Paralympian’s best Australian Open result to date is in doubles, reaching the final in 2019 with France’s Stephane Houdet.
“That was my first Grand Slam final. I’m looking to go one better this year and win the title,” said Weekes, who will partner Belgium’s Joachim Gerard in the Australian Open doubles competiton this week.
The COVID-19 pandemic restricted competitive opportunities for Weekes in 2020, who last competed in an ITF Tour tournament overseas in March.
But the former world No.10, who became an incomplete paraplegic at age 13 through illness, has found positives from the situation.
“It was frustrating, but I reframed it and saw it as good opportunity to work on my game,” he said.
“In a general year when you’re always on the road and playing tournaments, it’s really hard to develop big parts of your game. So it was a good opportunity to work on those things throughout the year.”
Weekes trains at the National Academy in Sydney, where he has worked closely with former pros Jaslyn Hewitt-Shehadie and Jessica Moore over the past year.
“We had a big focus on my fitness and getting faster in the wheelchair, that’s been one of my weaknesses,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to improve that on court, as well as developing my shots into bigger weapons.”
In the lead-up to the Australian Open, Weekes’ attention switched to building match fitness.
“I’ve been playing in a couple of able-bodied leagues at home and that’s been fantastic,” he said.
He also arrived in Melbourne early to train alongside world No.1 quad wheelchair player Dylan Alcott and contest two ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour tournaments in early February.
“Now it’s exciting to see how (his hard work) is going to play out in the matches,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get some good results.”
Weekes plays world No.1 Shingo Kunieda of Japan in men’s wheelchair singles action today at Australian Open 2021.