Making a “racquet”: the young South Australian acing the inclusive tennis league

Making a “racquet”: the young South Australian acing the inclusive tennis league

Andriana Petrakis is showing that all athletes have the chance to shine when inclusivity is championed. (Image via Soula Petrakis)

By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf

Andriana Petrakis, 19, is an up-and-coming competitor in the tennis world and a role model for young athletes with disabilities.

Andriana plays in the People with an Intellectual Impairment (PWII) division of Tennis Australia, being on the autism spectrum, and is ranked fourth in the nation.

“My dream is to become number one in Australia and then the world,” Andriana said.

“After that, I would like to be on television [to] represent … and raise awareness about people with autism like me, and people with other disabilities.”

Her current goal is to qualify for Australia’s national tennis team to compete in the 2022 Virtus European Regional Games in Poland this July.

“In March, I went to the Gold Coast for a training camp,” Andriana said.

“Then I will be playing in Sydney in April, then hopefully the ACT in May.

“The team announcement will be on May 23.”

If her most recent achievements are any indication, Andriana has an excellent shot at making the team.

In 2021, Andriana won the title for the Peter Smith PWII Open State Championships Women’s Singles event.

Winners are grinners: Andriana received the 2021 Peter Smith PWII Open State Championships Women’s Singles title. (Image via Soula Petrakis)

On a national level, at the Australian Open in January 2022, she placed second in her division, receiving prize money.

“It’s the first time prize money has been offered for her division,” said Andriana’s mother, Soula Petrakis.

“[Tennis Australia is] trying to get people with disabilities from all over the world to come participate in the Australian Open (AO).

“The tennis community is very inclusive.

“We’ve been dealing with Tennis Australia for a while and have come across some really good people.”

Andriana with former Australian tennis player, Alicia Molik, at the 2022 AO. (Image via Soula Petrakis)
Andriana in action – 2022 marks her fifth year participating at the AO. (Image via Soula Petrakis)

Andriana’s tennis talents have also been acknowledged off the court.

“Last year, I won Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability from Tennis Australia and was also an Australian Tennis Awards finalist in this category,” Andriana said.

“I was very content and proud of myself.

“Those moments were great memories.

“My family and I feel very blessed with my achievements.”

In 2021, Andriana was a finalist for Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability at the Australian Tennis Awards. (Image via Tennis Australia)

Andriana has been playing tennis since she was nine, which makes 2022 her tenth year of the sport.

She had previously participated in swimming but found it didn’t meet her social needs.

After noticing that she liked watching her younger sister play, Andriana’s parents introduced her to tennis.

They hadn’t expected her to be so successful.

“We just wanted her to have some kind of occupational therapy,” Soula said.

“We couldn’t find any occupational therapists, so we used tennis to help … with her hand-eye coordination, build up some strength, and improve her communication and social skills.”

Andriana said the friendships and connections she’s made over the last decade, especially at her club Woodville Orion, have been a treasured aspect of playing the sport.

“My favourite things about tennis are working as a team, playing competitively, hitting lots of shots and having fun,” Andriana said.

Andriana with her younger siblings, Despina and Dimitri, at the 2018 Special Olympics National Games in Adelaide. (Image via Adelaide Now)

Andriana shares her tennis expertise through her role as pickleball tennis coach at One Culture Support Services.

“Through my work, I help young children, young people and adults with disabilities to play pickleball for their future tennis pathway,” Andriana said.

“Pickleball is a modified version of tennis.

“It uses a paddle instead of a racquet and it has a different ball.

“I love working with children, and I like working as a team and using my leadership skills.

This October, Andriana will travel to Tasmania to represent South Australia in the 2022 Special Olympics National Games.

“Our family [is] so proud of Andriana because of how far she’s come and all the hard work she’s put in, and that we’ve put into her too,” Soula said.

“Every day she makes us proud with the things that she does.

“She is a very positive person.

“I’m just glad we took the path we took with tennis, because it has really brought out the best in her.”

Andriana has met her tennis idols (T-B): Ash Barty, Heath Davidson, Dylan Alcott, and fellow Greek-Australian from Adelaide, Thanasi Kokkinakis. (Images via Soula Petrakis)

Andriana said she hopes her achievements inspire others to strive for their best and be accepting of everyone.

“I want to see more inclusion from mainstream people, and for them to make an effort to talk to people with special needs.

“I hope the Greek community is also proud of me, as I have been very passionate about my heritage for my whole life.

“I also would like to show people to be confident, happy and aim to be successful in life. To keep up with their positive attitude, as well.”

Evidently, Andriana is a player to watch, and with her level of optimism, “number one” could very well be just around the corner.

On April 30, she will compete in the 2022 NSW PWII Open, the next qualifying stage for the Virtus Games in Poland.

OTR wishes Andriana the best of luck for the tournament and all her future endeavours, in tennis and beyond.

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