Sharing the stage with global superstars
TENNIS: While Novak Djokovic was on his way to a record-breaking seventh Australian Open title and Naomi Osaka continued to usher in a new era for women's tennis, a Coffs Coast resident was also claiming silverware at Melbourne Park.
Damian Phillips was competing in the Australian Tennis Championships for players with an intellectual disability and was a dominant force in three events during the tournament.
In singles, Phillips steamrolled all before him to make the semi-finals before losing to his doubles partner Archie Graham 6-3.
Graham and Phillips proved a force to be reckoned with on the same side of the court, winning all their doubles matches en route to the final. The duo went down in a tight match 6-2, 4-6, 7-10.
Success continued for Phillips in the mixed doubles, as he and partner Kelly Wren went on a tear that took them all the way to the final, where they outplayed the number-one seeds to win 3-6, 6-1, 10-4.
"It was really good,” Phillips said of the tournament.
"It was really great they finally put us in Melbourne Park for the semi-finals and final.”
Phillips, 29, has been playing tennis since he was 12 and is still as infatuated with the sport as the day he first picked up a racquet.
"I just like hitting balls and being out on the court with my friends,” he said.
"I also love going overseas and playing for Australia. I always try and do my best for my country, that's the thing I love most about tennis.”
For Phillips' mum Leanne, exposure for the intellectually disabled players at Melbourne Park during a Grand Slam is the first step to elevating a version of tennis that has so far dwelled in the shadows.
"They don't get the recognition like wheelchair tennis and some others,” she said.
"People were coming up and asking 'what's this tennis?' and when you explain it to them they were like, 'Oh, we've never heard of it. We didn't realise it's a thing'.
"Hopefully that changes in the future, the players deserve it.”