Taylor Heads to Australian Open
Nick Taylor was not expecting to go to Australia. The Wichita native has not played in a Grand Slam event since 2015, and had already been informed that the wild card spot for this year’s Australian Open Quad Wheelchair draw would be given to the world’s number-eight player, Rob Shaw. Then, as COVID has shown is possible time and time again, things changed.
“(Shaw) sent me a personal message saying that he couldn’t play and that the spot would be opened up,” Taylor said. “About 48 hours later I got the email that they had given me the wildcard spot.”
Exciting as the news was, Taylor was left scrambling. He had just eight days to complete his paperwork, organize travel plans and produce a negative COVID molecular test - a task which he says was not as easy as it may seem.
“Tennis Australia has had to go to extreme lengths to put on this tournament. It’s very hard for anybody to get in internationally right now,” Taylor said. “It actually ended up being tricky here in Wichita. With the type of test I had to get, and how it had to be administered, it was quite an experience to figure out. But, I had some people that helped me out and I was able to get it done.”
With the testing out of the way, Taylor is now set to participate in his first Grand Slam event since winning the US Open Quad Wheelchair doubles title in 2015. In fact, it will be his first tournament of any kind in nearly 10 months. He attended the US Open in 2020 as an alternate, but did not play.
“It’s going to feel really good to be back,” he said. “I’ve been playing tournaments since I was 14-years-old and the longest I’ve ever gone without playing a tournament was maybe three months. To go a full 10 months without a competitive match was weird.”
To Taylor’s benefit, there will be two events leading up to the Australian Open: the Victorian Wheelchair Tennis Open from Feb. 3-6 and the Melbourne Wheelchair Tennis Open from Feb. 8-11. This will give Taylor a chance to get back into the swing of things, as well as give him an opportunity to get comfortable with his doubles partner, Koji Sugeno.
Taylor is known for his doubles play with David Wagner, but due to Taylor’s late addition, Wagner was already slated to play with another participant. So, Taylor and Sugeno will team up for the second time in their careers.
“Koji and I played together in St. Louis a couple of years ago and played pretty well,” Taylor said. “But it’s going to be my first Grand Slam where I’m not playing with David, so that will be different.”
With 11 Quad Doubles Grand Slam titles and three Paralympic Gold Medals, Taylor is already one of the most decorated players in quad tennis history. Now, he has a chance to supplement his legacy by playing in a Grand Slam after a six-year hiatus. No matter the result, Taylor’s return to the sport’s highest stage is a testament to his dominance.
“With the combination of not playing a tournament in nearly a year, this being my first Grand Slam in six years and playing with a new partner, it would be remiss of me to set the expectations extremely high,” he said. “But, I’m really looking forward to competing in a Grand Slam and playing the best I can.”
The 2021 Australian Open Quad Wheelchair draw will be played Feb. 8-11 at Melbourne Park.