Melbourne, VIC, 26 October 2022 | Matt Trollope

An improved career approach, more belief in his game and a happy personal life – all are factors contributing to one of Heath Davidson’s most consistent seasons.

It will culminate with his first appearance at the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Masters since 2019, after Davidson won eight of his 12 singles matches since Roland Garros.

The world No.5’s most recent competitive appearance was at the US Open in September, where he pushed reigning Australian Open champion Sam Schroder to the brink in their quarterfinal clash.

He also fell to Schroder at Melbourne Park, and Schroder’s fellow Dutchman Niels Vink at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. But while those losses all came in straight sets, the US Open result represented more progress in this satisfying season.

“I feel like I put up a great performance. I had chances, proved to myself that those Dutch boys are beatable. Which is good moving forward, I don’t fear them anymore,” Davidson told after the 3-6 7-6(3) 6-3 defeat.

“(I’m) definitely improving, and just hopefully can beat them once in the next few months.”

Finding his stride

Even if a win against either does not come at the Masters – which begin 30 October in Oss, Netherlands – Davidson is giving himself the best opportunity for success.

The 35-year-old Victorian feels he has “found his stride” in 2022, working hard with coaches Francois Vogelsberger and Marco Persi and refining a game style he enjoys playing.

Now more than ever, he prioritises consistent training, including off-court efforts like adequate rest and the right recovery.

“(I’m) looking after my body, because I’m getting old, and it’s just not recovering like it used to,” he smiled.

He is also working with a sports psychologist and has learned to reframe the way he approaches his competitive career.

“(I’m) just sort of trusting my tennis really, and doing what I do, and enjoying it. I love playing tennis, and I guess I’ve started to enjoy the experiences of being at the US Open, Wimbledon, stuff like that,” he revealed.

“It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying it (before); I just put so much pressure on myself because it was like a job. And as much as it still is a job, it’s a job that I love to do.

“There are not many other jobs that you get to travel the world, hit tennis balls for a living. (I’m) pretty lucky.

“Just got a really good personal life now, as well. Got a beautiful missus, got a really good relationship with Francois, my coach, and Marco, and just in a good spot.”

Stepping up

Transition has been the theme of Davidson’s year, especially given the retirement of illustrious countryman Dylan Alcott, who played his last tournament at AO 2022 while still ranked No.1.

Now the most prominent Australian competing on the international wheelchair circuit, Davidson has also, unofficially at least, contributed to the development of Australian juniors rising in the game.

One is Saalim Naser, the 18-year-old Melburnian who competed at the inaugural junior wheelchair Grand Slam tournament at the US Open, and whose training sessions with Davidson at the National Tennis Centre helped prepare him for Grand Slam competition.

> RELATED: Australia’s Naser into US Open junior wheelchair semifinals

“It’s weird not having Dylan around,” Davidson said.

“He’s one of my best mates, I played all these big tournaments with him and stuff like that. I think I was sort of just sitting in the background a little bit, and now that he’s not here, it’s weird, because I miss him, but I’m enjoying stepping up and trying to be that person (that he was).

“I don’t really think about it as me being the No.1 Aussie or anything like that. I was sort of really lucky in the sense that, because I was playing doubles with Dylan, I got used to cameras and media and all that stuff really fast. So that doesn’t really bother me too much anymore.

“I can just focus on what I’m here to do, and that’s play tennis.”

After a holiday to Mexico post-US Open, Davidson returned to Melbourne to prepare for the Masters, extra motivated to return to an event he has not contested for three years.

“I definitely need to go over and play; I missed it last year just due to flights being so expensive to get to America,” he said.

“(As a result) I’ve got a zero on my ranking, so it’s definitely hurting me at the moment; I think if I don’t have that zero I would sit at No.3 in the world.

“So I’m sitting No.5 in the world at the moment with a zero, so I’m pretty happy.”

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