Britain’s Andy Lapthorne will begin his 2018 Australian Open singles campaign on court eight today against the defending champion Dylan Alcott.
I know they are going to try and push the boundaries again this year - they’re great here and we all in every division enjoy playing here. Andy Lapthorne
It will be a replay of last years final which saw Lapthorne finish with runners-up honours in a final which put quad tennis centre stage having been played on Rod Laver Arena just before the Williams sisters singles final.
And the British number one is full of praise for the first Slam of the year and the opportunities they give to wheelchair players in all divisions.
He said: “Like I said on social media a few days ago it really is the slam that smashes the glass ceiling.
“In terms of giving wheelchair players the opportunities to play on the biggest courts, having TV coverage and giving us things like hawkeye it’s right up there – we’re treated the same as our able-bodied counterparts.
“Obviously because they’ve got Dylan (Alcott), he’s a big draw here and plays in the quad division that helps but regardless they treat everyone the same.
“But for them to give us that sporting opportunity and play the final on Rod Laver last year – putting quads tennis out there – it was amazing.
“And I know they are going to try and push the boundaries again this year – they’re great here and we all in every division enjoy playing here.”
Playing pressure free
Lapthornee loves playing in Australia and has had great success here over the years, having won five doubles titles.
He’s now going for his sixth and alongside him is a player who at slams we are used to seeing by his side, David Wagner.
In 2017 the pair won every Grand Slam doubles title the quads division can compete for.
He said: “ I love playing here so to actually make it here after the last sort of six weeks I’ve had is great.
“To have five doubles titles here is amazing I mean when I first came here I never thought that would have been the case.
“I’ve got a good guy next to me this week in David we have a lot of trust in each other and we’ve never lost a match when played together so hopefully we can keep that run going.
“I’m sure at some point that run has got to come to an end but hopefully that runs not going to come to an end this week and I can get that number six and my fourth with David.”
But Lapthorne’s ambitions in Melbourne Park stretch beyond that of doubles he’s coming out ready to make a serious challenge for the singles title and go one better than his runners-up trophy from last year.
Lapthorne continued: “Like any tournament we come here and respect the competition as the standard is so high but we also come here to win.
“I feel like I’m coming here pressure free and I feel like I’m taking a free shot really because of the situation with the hand and wrist injury it sort of takes the pressure off and allows me to be very dangerous – they say beware of the wounded animal don’t they.
““It’s just really nice to be in the sun and hitting tennis balls again – they say you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it and I’ve spent the last four weeks not hitting much so to be back smashing some balls around the court with Stu the other day was great.”
“Mentally I’m in a good place and I’m in a place where I can come out swinging.”
Premier League support
The British number one makes no secret of the fact that he is a devoted fan of a certain Premier League football club – West Ham.
Check out his twitter and as well as playing tennis he can regularly be seen giving his opinions about how the team have played and in the crowd on match days.
And West Ham and their fans also support him a great deal
He said: “The clubs support has been massive – I’ve had messages from the club before I came out here and the fans are amazing as well.
“When they heard about the injury I must have had 50 to 60 messages within ten minutes from West Ham fans saying ‘get well soon’ and ‘hope to see you in Oz’
“I know there’s some West Ham fans out in Melbourne too they usually come and watch me so hopefully those guys will come out again this week and watch me and we can get it rolling.
“Few wins for West Ham and a few wins for me and I’ll go home a happy boy.”