Tennis great gives back to sport at Grafton
TENNIS: It was a proud moment for Grafton City Tennis Club as leading Australian wheelchair tennis player Ben Weekes stole the show at the club's third annual Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.
Weekes played in a special exhibition doubles match at the end of the tournament, and also gave tips to aspiring wheelchair players.
The four-time Paralympian is coming toward the twilight of a career almost two decades long and said it was time he gave back to a sport that had given him so much in that time.
"It has almost been 20 years playing, as my own career heads towards its end I am trying to give back to the sport,” he said.
"I have been in it for so long. I love the sport. I have seen the new players coming through and I am doing as much as I can to help with that.
"There was definitely less regional events when I first got in, but over the past few years there has been a huge growth in wheelchair tennis
"We have got so many young juniors coming through the ranks and the future looks very bright.”
The visit to Grafton proved to be a special moment for the Australian representative as he linked up with former mentor Kent McKelvie, who twas runner-up in the singles event at the weekend.
The 2017 champion McKelvie was beaten by Martyn Dunn in the final before teaming up with Weekes in the exhibition doubles clash.
"Tournaments like the one in Grafton just give me more appreciation for the sport and where I started,” Weekes said.
"It reminds me of the journey I have been on to get where I am and I am so glad to see other people starting that journey or even continuing it.”
Though he might be coming to the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old admitted he was playing his best tennis after coming off a doubles finals appearance at the Australian Open last month.
Playing alongside regular training partner, and the number one ranked doubles player in the world, France's Stephane Houdet, Weekes was impressive at the Open to complete his best majors finish.
"It was our first tournament but we just gelled really well,” he said. "Being down in Melbourne with the support of Australia behind us, everything just fell into place for us.”
Now with the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics on the horizon, Weekes is gearing up for a big year on the courts as he aims to qualify for his fifth Paralympic Games.