You may remember Craig grad Jason Keatseangsilp's sharing his story in 2020 about his time in college and playing tennis with Team USA. Today, we're excited to share that Jason had the opportunity to compete as a wild card in the 2022 US Open Wheelchair Championships in September! Jason shares more about his experience at the US Open:
What was your experience at the US Open like? Overall, it was an amazing experience. I've played tournaments at various levels in terms of prestige from low to high, and playing a Grand Slam is the most prestigious sporting event in tennis, able-bodied or chair. The entire experience was world class - the facilities, hotel, the on-site services (physios, stringers, etc.), transportation, food and much more. The community was also amazing. The wheelchair players received essentially the same access as our able-bodied counterparts - same access to locker rooms, player lounge, practice courts, etc. I can't think of anything the wheelchair players couldn't do that the able-bodied players could.
How did your match go? The hardest part of the experience for me was the match play. I had a tough singles loss against the world #10 from the Netherlands. I definitely felt nerves, but it was still going to be tough regardless. For doubles, my partner had to withdraw, so I didn't get to play doubles. We would have played the #1 seed from Great Britain, and it would've been a fun experience playing the best doubles team in the world.
What was the highlight of your experience? Simply just taking in the entire experience. From playing in the biggest venue in front of a crowd to having a locker right across from Rafa Nadal to scheduling rides in the tournament vehicle Cadillacs in a separate phone app, there was so much to take in. No other tournament except the other Grand Slams and possibly the Paralympics will ever come close to the experience I had at the US Open.
Did anything surprise you about the experience or how you felt being there? I was impressed by the integration of wheelchair tennis in the US Open. We weren't just a side show or exhibition event; we were part of the tournament. Our names, scores and matches were in the US Open app. The giant TV monitors outside the courts were televising the wheelchair matches. I think this is one of the most significant standouts of wheelchair tennis compared to other wheelchair sports. I cannot think of any other major sporting events in which an event of that magnitude has a parallel concurrent wheelchair event.
Why was this experience important to you? Tennis is a lifelong passion of mine, and playing a Grand Slam is a dream come true for a tennis player of any ability. Furthermore, I have dedicated the last five years of my life to the sport. All the hard work, results, time and efforts were all worthwhile to earn a spot to compete at a Grand Slam.
What would you say to others about pursuing experiences like this and continuing your passions after injury? Once you've stabilized your health after your SCI, give wheelchair sports a try. Not only is it physically and mentally healthy, but you never know what kind of opportunities will come if you try and work at it. Within five years of playing wheelchair tennis, I have been blessed to travel to 12 countries, represent Team USA, compete in arguably the most prestigious sporting event in the world and much more.
What's next for you? The US Open took a lot out of me physically and mentally. I have been resting since I've been back, but I'm planning to finish the year off with a few more tournaments in Alabama and Brazil.