Kettering’s Dermot Bailey is a dual national champion after an outstanding weekend in Gloucester confirmed a high-powered year in the world of wheelchair tennis.
The 21-year-old, who also won the men’s singles and doubles at an ITF Futures tournament at the same venue in May came up trumps at the Oxstalls Sports Park by winning both events once more, partnering 47-year-old Steven Metcalfe from nearby Bristol in the doubles.
That adds to ITF wins in Wrexham, Sheffield and Portugal in what has been a highly charged 2015.
Yet it has been a long haul back for Bailey after being severely knocked by glandular fever and the tragic death of his previous coach Kevin Hoey.
He admitted: “I lost most of 2013 and probably seven or eight months of 2014 and went down to 160 in the world.”
Ranked the fifth best wheelchair men’s tennis player in this country and 47 in the world, Bailey’s irrepressible momentum is carrying him forward at a frightening speed with his dream of representing Great Britain at next year’s Paralympics in Brazil still possible although Tokyo in five years time is now a more realistic goal.
Great Britain will only take four players to Rio de Janeiro and none of the four players ranked above Bailey – Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett, Marc McCarroll or David Phillipson – competed at Gloucester where fresh points were not attainable.
Bailey, who juggles his job at Kettering General Hospital with accountancy exams he is sitting in part this Saturday, remains philosophical about the Paralympics quest and is anticipating a fortnight’s trip to the USA in January as the next step of his long-term goal.
He said: “This year has put me in a position which not many people thought I would be in.
“I still have to at least break into the top 30 to have a chance of going to Rio. Everything will quieten down again after Rio when there won’t be as many tournaments with points available.”
Christmas will hardly mean a scaling down of his three hours a week of coaching work with Mark Taylor, topped up by hitting with other players and the fitness regime although the specially adapted sports wheelchair in Kettering Town colours will go in for a service.
From January 21-24 Bailey will take part in the Ezmed Arizona Open and then from January 28-31 competition will be buzzing at the Indiana Wells Garden Tennis Club, both events which could significantly raise his credit.
Having already played in France, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Belgium this year, he will hardly be fazed by the travelling.
After his singles success in Gloucester, Bailey was quick to celebrate his victory on twitter and posted the message: “This is probably the biggest trophy I’ve ever won!”
The event was a round-robin affair which saw Bailey blitz all opposition.
In winning four contests over two days on Friday and Saturday he creamed 48 games and dropped just two, scoring whitewashes against Tony Knappett and Jonathan Priestley, 6-1, 6-0 against Keith Thom and 6-0, 6-1 against Scott Smith.
He said: “These are good players but because I have been working so hard and playing so well against some of the best in the world my own confidence is high.”
In the doubles, Bailey and Metcalfe enjoyed successes against Darren Mitchell/Luz Esperanza Merry (6-2), Tony Knappett/Keith Thom (6-2, 6-3) and Steve Crompton/James Shaw (6-0).
Only the previous weekend, Bailey had been in Prague for an event which included some of the best players in the world and after winning his first round match 6-2, 6-2 against Tadeusz Kruszelnicki from Poland who has represented his country at every Paralympics since 1996, he bowed out to the ninth ranked player in the world Tom Egberink from the Netherlands, 2-6, 3-6.
Bailey reached the quarter-finals of the doubles, partnering Gaetan Menguy before the pair lost 2-6, 3-6 against Egberink/Ricky Molier.
In all it proved something of a red-letter weekend for Bailey as even his beloved Newcastle United turned up trumps with their 2-0 win over Liverpool on Sunday. Ironic in as much as coach Taylor follows the Anfield club!
“Yes, I might have rung him about that,” Bailey admitted.
It was a weekend to look back on with satisfaction although a reality check never does any harm along with an ability to keep feet on the ground.
As he says: “Surely it can’t get better than this...”