Brits twice earned a place on the podium at the Australian Tennis Championships for learning disability players, which came to an end in Melbourne over the weekend. Fabrice Higgins and Dominic Iannotti finished runners-up in the men’s doubles and Thomas Mellor gained third place in the men’s singles.
It was the first time that British players had travelled to Australia to take part in the prestigious event, which is sanctioned by INAS, the International Federation managing elite competition for athletes with a learning disability. Higgins and Iannotti had the opportunity to play their doubles final at Melbourne Park during the penultimate day of the Australian Open.
Players from Great Britain access the INAS pathway through the strong collaboration between the Tennis Foundation and the UK Sports Association (UKSA), the official Great Britain member of INAS.
Five Brits – Fabrice Higgins, Dominic Iannotti, Thomas Mellor, Peter Millar and Shain Lewis – contested the men’s singles and doubles, with both events starting as a series of round-robin groups at Albert Reserve Centre, the official training facility for the Australian Open.
Iannotti, Mellor and Millar all finished top of their singles groups with four wins from their four matches to progress to the quarter-finals. They were joined in the last eight by former INAS World Tennis Championships singles gold medallist Higgins. Higgins was second in his group with three wins from his four matches. Shain Lewis finished second in his group with three wins from his four matches.
Former World Championships silver medallist Mellor (right) advanced to the semi-finals after defeating Australian Damian Phillips 6-2. However, Higgins bowed out to Archie Graham 6-4, Iannotti’s challenge also ended in the quarter-finals when he was beaten 6-2 by Mitchell James. Millar lost out 6-0 to eventual champion Sam Von Einem, the only player to have denied Higgins in the round-robin phase of the competition.
Mellor’s hopes of reaching another major final also came to an end against Von Einem as the Australian won their semi-final 6-0. However, Mellor ended his singles challenge on a high after a fine performance to edge out James 7-6 in the third place play-off.
Higgins and Iannotti produced three dominant performances in their doubles round-robin matches. They dropped just one game to finish top of their group and advanced to the semi-finals. Meanwhile, Mellor and Millar beat two of the three Australian partnerships they faced and finished second in their group.
Lewis partnered Australia’s Timothy Bird in the doubles. The duo completed their round-robin matches fourth of the five teams in their group after securing one win over the all-Australian partnership of Timothy Gould and Luke Trethowan.
With Higgins and Iannotti flying the flag for Britain in the doubles semis, they advanced to the final after defeating Joshua Holloway and Mitchell James 6-3. This earned the Brits one last contest at Melbourne Park against Archie Graham and Damian Phillips, but the Australians narrowly had the edge to prevail 7-5, 6-4.
The Australian Tennis Championships gave the players valuable experience of international competition at the start of a year in whicb the Tennis Foundation hosts the 2017 INAS World Tennis Champions in Bolton on 9 – 14 April, in association with the UK Sports Association (UKSA).