Tennis has given Theo Joos a new lease of life since a crash six years ago that left him a paraplegic.
Mr Joos, who is confined to a wheelchair, said while it had been a rough few years since the crash, tennis had encouraged him to think about the future — and to dream of bigger things.
So much so that this weekend Mr Joos, 28, of Albury, will mark the anniversary of the September 2007 crash, after which his best friend was jailed for drink-driving, by playing in his first tournament.
“Tennis has given me something to aim for,” he said yesterday.
“I can’t remember the last time I had goals like I do now.
“I would love one day to make it to the Australian Open for people in wheelchairs.
“I dream of the Paralympics but I still have a few days of practice to go before then.”
Mr Joos has been practising his shots with coach Cameron Meagher for eight months.
Mr Joos is the first wheelchair-bound man Mr Meagher has coached.
“This tournament shows how much confidence Theo has built since the crash,” he said.
“He’s got enthusiasm and wants to do well so he makes it easy coaching him.
“I hope he comes back from the tournament even hungrier to succeed.”
Mr Joos said he had never played a match before and was excited to test his talent.
“Everyone will be in wheelchairs and I’ll see how I rank against them,” he said.
“It will also be good to be around people with similar interests.”
Mr Joos said it was vital he kept in shape and tennis was a good excuse to get out of the house.
The tournament started yesterday on the South Coast at Nowra. The trip is Mr Joos’ first alone since his accident.
The winner of the South Pacific Open will receive more than $1500.
And while Mr Joos would love to be in the winner’s circle, he was just focusing on his on-court performance.
“I’m renting my wheelchair from Wheelchair Sports NSW and would love to buy my own if I win some money,” he said.
“I need a special one with a wheel at the back so I don’t tip over.”
Mr Meagher said he was looking forward to Mr Joos’ return when they would have a better idea of how he needed to improve.