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  • During the Australian Open 2018 Wheelchair Championships at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
It is the 11 day of the Australian Open with well into the semi-finals but for the top wheelchair tennis players it is only the opening, yet it has not received the attention it deserves, but the players believe it’s temporarily.
By
Olga Klepova

24 Jan 2018 - 9:00 PM  UPDATED 25 Jan 2018 - 11:40 AM

With the eyes now fixed on the courts of the Australian Open and tennis battles unwrapping into the semi-finals, the wheelchair tennis Grand Slam tournament just kicked off.

20 top wheelchair tennis players representing 10 countries compete in singles, doubles and quad singles.

How men entry list looks: 

1 - Gustavo Fernandez (Argentina)

2 - Alfie Hewett (Great Britain)

3 - Stephane Houdet (France) – through to the semi-final

4 - Gordon Reid (Great Britain)

5 - Nicolas Peifer (France) - through to the semi-final

6 - Stefan Olsson (Sweden) - through to the semi-final

7 - Shingo Kunieda (Japan) - through to the semi-final

Wild Card 130 - Adam Kellerman (Australia)

Here is how top 8 women entry list looks:

1 - Yui Kamiji (Japan) - through to the semi-final

2 - Diede de Groot (Netherlands) - through to the semi-final

3 - Sabine Ellerbrook (Germany) - through to the semi-final

4 - Marjolein Bus (Netherlands)

5 - Aniek van Koot (Netherlands) - through to the semi-final

6 - Lucy Shuker (Great Britain)

7 - Kgothatso Montjane (South Africa)

Wild Card [8] Katharina Kruger (Germany)

Quad Entry List:

1 - David Wagner (USA) - through to the semi-final

2 - Andy Lapthorne (Great Britain)

3 - Dylan Alcott (Australia) - through to the semi-final

Wild card 5 - Heath Davidson (Australia)

26 years old

The wheelchair tennis has a relatively short history.

But the first inclusion of it into the Paralympics in 1992 secured its recognition in the sport industry.

“Pushing the wheelchair with the racket in your hand is probably the hardest thing to learn if you have never pushed a wheelchair before.”

Since then it has only been an upward slope that has transformed it into the fastest developing wheelchair sport in the world.

However even this status doesn’t bring as much attention as able-bodied sport.

The wildcard Adam Kellerman and the world No. 3 Stephane Houdet both agree it was London Paralympics that most effectively brought into the spotlight the wheelchair tennis contributing to its positive image.

The hard-hitting ads showcased the players at their best, going to the edge of the human physical ability.

Adam believes that it was a great example of elevating the sport’s profile, something that can be revamped and grown in Australia.

Playing the wheelchair tennis for the first time was nothing easy for Adam.

He came to the sport after having one hip amputated due a contracted infection.

Once on the court he had an instant reaction to run after the ball.

The coordination was very poor and moving the wheelchair around seemed like Sisyphean task.

“Pushing the wheelchair with the racket in your hand is probably the hardest thing to learn if you have never pushed a wheelchair before.”

Having competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics and other tournaments Adam knows it all was worth it.

Money talk

Money is a taboo topic in many cultures, but it’s undeniably a hot one especially when talking about large lump sums.

And sport is the industry where cash is always on display.

On the first day of the 2018 Australian Open the 19 Grand Slam winner Roger Federer said players were bored of pushing the issue of the prize money.

This year total prize was increased by 10% amounting to US $55 million dollars.

In the wheelchair tennis this year it is $200,000 and the AO is the lowest across all Grand Slams.

With Wimbledon having the highest prize money of $346,000 followed by French Open with $323,000 and second last is US Open with $275,000.

But Adam explains that outside the prize money it brings you a lot of other benefits, like world travelling or tournaments scattered throughout the year. 

It might not seem much in comparison, however the wheelchair tennis progressively was making its notches in the prize scale, since just over than 10 years ago, when there were none.

There is now a push from the players to have an association that can represent them and act in their best interests like ATP or WTA.

Stephane Houdet admits that the association is absolutely necessary to promote and market the sport and help the players to have a say.