"Because of my impairment, I didn't think it would be possible to do sports at first. But I dream like they do, and with all the contacts I've had in sports, I always thought of myself as a sportsman. Now, I play like they do."
Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina, a rising star in Wheelchair Tennis, has been voted the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) Athlete of the Month for May.
Fernandez, just 18 years old, won the men's Wheelchair Tennis singles events at both the Japan Open and Korea Open last month to move into the top 10 of the world's men's singles rankings for the first time in his career.
At the Japan Open from 12-16 May, after defeating Australia's Ben Weekes in the opening round, Fernandez pulled a major upset, stunning then-world No. 1 Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands in three sets.
He then went on to defeat Belgium's Joachim Gerard and the Netherlands' Ronald Vink before upending current world No. 1 Stephane Houdet of France in the finals in straight sets.
"The match with Scheffers was everything," Fernandez said. "Once I won that match I had all the confidence I needed to keep moving forward.
"It did not seem like something that was real. It still felt like something I knew that could maybe happen."
Fernandez then won all four of his matches at the Korea Open the following week to take the title with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Great Britain's Gordon Reid in the finals to vault himself to world No. 9.
He is currently ranked No. 7 after winning the Daegu Open on 9 June - finishing up a clean sweep of the three recent tournaments in Asia.
The Argentinian comes from a family where sports are everything. His father, also named Gustavo, had a successful 17-year professional basketball career in Argentina, where he played for a number of teams and won five national championships.
His brother, Juan, 22, now plays professional basketball in Italy after making a name for himself playing college hoops at Temple University in the USA.
Fernandez, meanwhile, has been in a wheelchair since he was just over a year old, when he fell out of a chair and suffered a type of spinal-cord injury that he said just one in six million people have.
His major breakthrough in Wheelchair Tennis came when he won singles gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now a quick start to the season has really pushed him into the spotlight - an accomplishment that truly makes him feel a part of his sporting family.
"It's a dream come true," Fernandez said. "Because of my impairment, I didn't think it would be possible to do sports at first. But I dream like they do, and with all the contacts I've had in sports, I always thought of myself as a sportsman.
"Now, I play like they do."
The up-and-comer claims he has become much more consistent and focused on the court over the past couple of months. He will remain in Argentina for the duration of June and then head to Nottingham, Great Britain, to participate in the British Open before training for a week in Barcelona, Spain.
If the next couple of months unfold as the last few have for Fernandez, the world's best Wheelchair Tennis players better watch out come the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"With these results and all, now's better than ever," Fernandez said of his medal chances at London 2012.
"I hope that scares people when they play me."