Six tennis players have been selected for the Great Britain team to contest the International Blind Tennis Tournament in Spain next month, becoming the first ever visually impaired players to represent the nation on the international stage.
The team will be managed by the Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity, and will travel to Alfaz del Pí on the Costa Blanca, Alicante for what is the first ever international tournament of its kind.
Organised by the International Blind Tennis Association, the tournament will see 70 players from 14 countries take part. As a result, at the end of the event, the first ever blind tennis world rankings will be established.
The Great Britain team is comprised of three female and three male players:
- Yvette Priestley – Birmingham
- Wendy Glasper – Darlington
- Brenda Cassell – Leytonstone, London
- Nikhil Nair – Cambridge
- David Deas – Newcastle
- Chris Baily – Uckfield
Great Britain Team Manager and the Tennis Foundation’s Tournament Director, Kirsty Thomson said
“We’re so proud to be involved in the first international Blind Tennis event. Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis is continually growing as a sport. With the chance for players to now secure a world ranking, as well as compete domestically in the Tennis Foundation structure of regional tournaments and National Championships, it can only continue to go from strength to strength. We hope the selected GB players will inspire the next generation to pick up a racket at one of the many sessions supported by the Tennis Foundation across the country.”
Great Britain player Nikhil Nair, blind since the age of nine, is no stranger to breaking boundaries, having become Cambridge University’s first ever blind science student and graduated with a double first in 1997. A member of the Vision4Growth club in Cambridge and singles finalist at the National Championships for the past three years, Nair said: “I’ve been dreaming about playing international blind tennis since my first National Championships, so to get that chance now really is a dream come true – as well as an incredible privilege. I’m absolutely delighted to be in the GB team”
Brenda Cassell a Metro Blind Sport member has played VI cricket and then someone in her team suggested she should try tennis. Since starting to play she has gained confidence in herself and feels proud just being able to play tennis let alone compete.
“Playing for GB is beyond any dream. Wow somebody pinch me! This is a huge honour and I am truly humbled. Go GB!”
“I’m looking forward to walking out on the court in my GB gear and meeting other VI players from around the world – and hoping to bring home the winner’s trophy!”
There are more opportunities than ever before for people who are blind or partially sighted to play tennis – and a record number of people are now taking it up, with a 165% increase in participation over the last three years at the Tennis Foundation’s network of venues.
With ambitions to become a Paralympic sport in the future, the visually impaired version of tennis is adapted from the full court version to a smaller court, with lower a lower net. It also uses an audible ball so players can hear it bounce and being hit, and, depending on an individual’s sight level, they can also be allowed up to three bounces before they must return it back to their opponent.
The Tennis Foundation’s vision is to make tennis a sport which is inclusive and accessible to all. It is hoped that in sending a Great Britain team to the first ever International Blind Tennis Tournament it will help raise the profile and awareness of visually impaired tennis in this country and inspire more people to play tennis in the UK, whatever their disability.
The Tennis Foundation works to open up tennis to its priority audiences of disabled people, young people in education and people in lower socio-economic communities, making it possible for them to enjoy the many health and social benefits of the sport whilst maximising their personal potential.
As part of its disability work, the Tennis Foundation supports and promotes visually impaired tennis in Great Britain, including delivering tennis taster sessions at the majority of the British Blind Sport ‘Have a Go Days’ to help blind and partially sighted people to try out the game, subsidising camps to help players develop their skill, and running a series of regional and national tournaments for blind and partially sighted players of all abilities, junior and senior.
Anyone interested in finding out more about tennis for blind and partially sighted tennis can download the Tennis Foundation’s ‘Guide to Visually Impaired Tennis via http://bit.ly/VITennisGuide. To find out more about the work of the Tennis Foundation visit www.tennisfoundation.org.uk.