Ben Weekes, Australia’s No. 1 ranked men’s wheelchair tennis player, survived a scare on Thursday’s second day of the Queensland Open, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, after dropping the opening set of his quarterfinal against fellow Australian Keegan Oh-Chee.
As the opening tournament on the 2013 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour saw the players move to Queensland Tennis Centre, where the closing stages of this week’s ITF 2 Series tournament will take place alongside the Brisbane International tour event, part of the Australian Open Series, second seed and world No. 17 Weeks fought back to beat 19-year-old Oh-Chee, who is ranked just inside the world’s top 100, 36 75 64.
On a day when the last eight of the men’s singles and the start of the doubles events took centre stage, all four seeds reached the men’s semifinals, with Weekes now set to face South African fourth seed Evans Maripa, who beat Austria’s Thomas Mossier 61 63.
There will be Austrian representation in the men’s semifinals after top seed Martin Legner beat Australia’s Jerry Markoja 62 63. Legner will face his second Australian opponent in a row in the semifinals after third seed Adam Kellerman defeated Korea Republic’s Sam-Ju Kim 60 62.
Before the tournament started Kellerman and Oh-Chee were among the players earmarked as ‘ones to watch’ by six-time ITF World Champion and Sydney 2000 Paralympic men’s singles gold medallist David Hall, who been named the ambassador of the 2013 Australian Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
"Keep an eye out for Adam Kellerman of Sydney whose ranking jumped 50 spots to No. 24 in the world, he is a player on the rise. Also look out for Keegan Oh Chee, another young Sydney player with lots of potential. He'll be one to look out for in the coming years," said Hall, who now works as a freelance writer in his spare time.
"My role during the summer will consist of promoting the events any way that I can,” expressed Hall, who began playing wheelchair tennis at 19, three years after he lost his legs hitchhiking on the Central Coast of NSW, where he was hit by a car.
42-year-old Hall, who enjoyed an illustrious wheelchair tennis career, winning every major title at some time during his career, including gold at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics and silver at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics, will also mentor the emerging Australian wheelchair tennis talent who will be on the tour this summer.
The traditional start to the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour in Australia during January consists of five tournaments in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, culminating in the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships, which takes place at Melbourne Park on 23-26 January during the second week of the first Grand Slam of the year.
After going head-to-head in Thursday’s singles quarterfinals in Brisbane, Oh-Chee and Weekes paired up for the first round of the men’s doubles as the main protagonists advanced in straight sets.
Second seeds Oh-Chee and Weekes will play South African duo Leon Els and Maripa in the semifinals, while top seeds Legner and Kellerman will take on Mossier and Steffen Sommerfeld of Germany.
Meanwhile, the opening match in a three-way round-robin competition for the women’s doubles saw top seeds Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Ju-Yeon Park of Korea Republic beat the Australian partnership of Lisa Edwards and Janel Manns 61 61.
Halls’ role as ambassador of the Australia Wheelchair Tennis Tour will extend beyond the current series of tournaments.
“Next year I'll be working with the able-bodied coaching courses, teaching the coaches the nuances of wheelchair tennis, going into rehabilitation centres talking about wheelchair tennis being a viable and fun option for newly injured people, and continuing to mentor our young players,” the Sydney-sider revealed.