Australian Open: Home talent in the wheelchair draw
By Gemma-Louise Stevenson
Last Updated: 25/01/19 10:33am
There is something in the air this Australian Open that has seen tennis talent from the country really shine and take centre stage.
The wheelchair draw has very much continued the trend of Aussie success that the main draw set from day one of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Already we have seen two wildcards take down top seeds and a doubles partnership from Victoria successfully defend a title.
As we enter finals weekend there's even more potential for homegrown success, Sky Sports takes a look at how the Australian players have already made their mark on the wheelchair draw...
Defence of a title
It took two sets and a Championship tie-break to decide the quad doubles champions on Thursday and in the end the spoils went to Australia's Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson.
They came out on top against Britain's Andy Lapthorne and David Wagner of America 6-3 6-7 (8-6) 12-10 on Margaret Court Arena after an intense exchange full of momentum shifts that lasted just under two hours.
The result means the pair successfully defended the title they won in 2018.
"It felt good out there today," Alcott said. "They hit a lot of balls to Heath today, he played so well, I'm proud of him today. "We pride ourselves on playing to the last point and I pride myself on having a level head the whole time, we try and play all the time like you can't tell the score."
The Australian duo have always been a strong doubles partnership, they are friends off the court as well as on, something which Alcott says helps them have fun and success in equal measure.
He continued, "We don't get angry at each other ever, we're always smiling helping each other out and that's why it works. But saying that I tell you what also helped us was a massive crowd, years ago we played to a handful of people but people come down and want to watch and support now and it's incredible."
"A Heath Party"
Over the past 18 months Davidson's rise up the rankings has been steep, and it's seen him cause on court upsets against some of the top players in the world, achieve career best rankings in singles and doubles at the end of last season and firmly cement himself within the top five quad players in the world.
While he admits the start of his 2019 season has felt a little bit up and down even though he's been playing some good tennis, in Melbourne Park this year he's been playing some of the tennis of his life and really seeing results.
"I've just go this real calming feeling cause its here, it's like I'm at home" Davidson told Sky Sports. "I train here every day, I live 40 minutes away, and I guess because I've got a clear head and I'm relaxed I'm playing some great tennis."
He's not afraid to grind it out either as we saw at the start of his second round-robin match, which ended in victory for him against Britain's Andy Lapthorne.
The Australian had got himself a 2-0 lead at lightning speed, but getting the next game on the board was a slightly tougher task.
"That third game legit went for 23 minutes," he said laughing. "We got to deuce and then Lappo just kept winning the points on the deuce side and I kept winning them on the ad side.
"But you've just got to stay positive and tough it out because it's those games that really mean a lot and if I'd let him get to 2-1, instead of going 3-0 up like I did, he would have had the momentum and it could have been very different."
The result of his performances so far have left him still in contention to make it to Saturday's singles final, providing he can get past world No 2 David Wagner in his final singles round robin match.
With fellow Australian Alcott having already booked his spot in the final the potential that there could be an all-Aussie final taking place is getting everyone excited, including Davidson, who wants it to be "a Heath Party this year"
"I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, David is a phenomenal player and he knows exactly where to put the ball so it's going to be really tough," he admitted
"But I'm also feeling mentally very strong here and can you imagine it? It would be pretty nice an all-Aussie final with my best mate on the other side of the court in an Australian Open final on Australia Day."
Toppling the top seeds
Ben Weekes, who is currently ranked 21 in singles in the men's division admits that it all feels a bit "surreal" to have entered the competition as a wildcard and found himself booking a spot in a Grand Slam final.
Alongside France's Stephane Houdet he took on the top seeds, the British duo of Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett, in the men's doubles semi-final on day two and came out victorious.
Weekes said, "It feels amazing. I'll admit when I had to serve for the match it was scary but for me, when you're here in Australia, everyone's behind you and it gives you the feeling of confidence and makes you go 'yes I can do this'"
Houdet, who last year won the doubles title in Melbourne Park with fellow Frenchman Nico Peifer, had nothing but good things to say about his doubles partner after the win.
"The way Ben plays is just incredible," he said. "At the beginning of the first set I was saying to myself that I want to play at his level - the way he returns, the way he was very precise and took the ball early, aces on the second serve - he made it very comfortable and easy for me."
Moving forward they'll face another of the sports dominant duos in the final, Belgium's Joachim Gerard and Sweden's Stefan Olsson and are hoping that, just like in the semi's, they can "keep the match on their racket" and keep producing tennis at the level they have been so far in this tournament.
"All the Aussies have done well this week and last week, we've got Sam Stosur in the women's doubles final in the main draw too," Weekes added, "I just want to keep that momentum going."
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