IT’S hard to know what the biggest thrill was for Coffs Harbour tennis player Damian Phillips recently.
It could have been claiming the national doubles title for intellectually disabled players with good friend and partner Senya Rudoy.
Maybe it was playing in the finals at Melbourne Park at the same time that the Australian Open was being played, so there was a good crowd to watch him.
Then again it could have been meeting former top 10 player Marin Cilic.
“That was pretty cool,” Phillips admitted.
“He was practising at Albert Park where we were playing and the Tennis Australia guys were saying to him that he couldn’t come over to give autographs or have pictures taken.
“He basically turned around and told them, ‘I am going over there to do that whether you like it or not’.”
Phillips, 21, said he was happy with how he played in singles and doubles while he was in Melbourne.
He and his partner claimed the title by knocking off top seeds Zvi Schweitzer and David Burke in the final 7-6 3-6 6-4.
Modestly, the local gave a lot of credit to his partner.
“Senya is like a brick wall basically,” he said.
“He’s got a soft serve but when he rallies he holds his ground.
“He’s pretty good to play with.”
Ironically, after losing the semi-final in the singles, Phillips found himself playing against Rudoy in the playoff for third and fourth. It was a match that Phillips claimed 6-2.
Such outstanding results aren’t a surprise considering Phillips went down there determined to do better this year than he did in his first foray to the national championships 12 months ago.
“I made a couple of friends but I didn’t talk to too many people this year,” he said.
“I was really going down there to do well and I was just focused on that.”
The strong performances in Melbourne mean that Phillips has a good chance of travelling to Italy in September with the national team.
While waiting for confirmation of the overseas trip, he is working hard on his game at Harbour Tennis Academy with coaches Allan Pade and Allison Scott.
Even for a player with a national title under his belt, he admits that there is still room for improvement in his game.
“I need to work on my second serve and my backhand,” he admitted.
“My forehand is pretty deadly when they go in but I need some more consistency, as well as building points better.”