Kettering’s Dermot Bailey follows up his ground-breaking wheelchair tennis season in 2015 with another career first this week as he begins his first competitive visit to the United States.
The 21-year-old will play back-to-back ITF 3 Series tournaments in Arizona and California as he bids to improve his chances of earning qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, having finished 2015 ranked inside the world’s top 50 for the first time, while also clinching his maiden National men’s singles title.
“I knew towards the end of last season I needed to play more tournaments early this year to give myself a chance of getting inside the ranking qualification bracket for Rio and I’ve heard some good things about these two tournaments in the States from other players,” said Bailey, who reached a career best singles ranking of No. 45 in November and is currently the British No. 5 among the men’s players on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis World Class Programme.
The Corby Tennis Centre player won his first four senior men’s main draw singles titles in 2015, beginning with the Sheffield ITF Futures tournament in April and then adding the Gloucester ITF Futures title in May before his first over overseas title in Portugal in September.
Bailey, who along with his family is a big Kettering Town fan, will start his bid in the ITF 3 Arizona Open in Tucson today (Thursday) before moving on to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Championships next week.
He added: “Winning my first title in Gloucester was a great feeling just because it was my first senior singles title and then as the season went on I had some really good results against some higher ranked players.
“And I think that winning the Setubal tournament in Portugal was a real turning point for me as I beat a world top 30 player for the first time there.
“I’m going to give it my best to get inside the ranking qualification criteria.
“The Indian Wells tournament is at the same venue where they have one of the top ATP and WTA events later in the year, so I’m looking forward to that.
“I was training throughout the whole festive period, so I’m really excited to play in the USA for the first time and build on the progress I made last year.”