For the third year in a row Highgate’s Paul Ryb and Carshalton’s Jan Reynolds claimed singles titles at the National Visually Impaired Tennis Championships as the winners were decided in five singles events and three doubles events over the weekend at the National Tennis Centre in London.
Meanwhile, after finishing runner-up in the B1 mixed singles event for blind players in 2015, Cambridgeshire’s Nikhil Nair went one better this year to claim the title and also added the B1 doubles title.
After two years of the championships featuring one men’s singles draw and women’s singles draw for visually impaired players in the B2-B4 classifications, this year’s record entry resulted in three men’s singles draws, with 2013 and 2014 men’s singles champion Ryb advancing from his B3-B4 singles round-robin group without dropping a game.
Ryb went on to win his quarter-final and semi-final matches with relative ease before defeating Uckfield’s Chris Baily 4-1, 4-2 in the final.Following a player withdrawal, the B4 men’s singles trophy went to Eastbourne’s Callum Lock, who advanced further than any other B4 player in the in the B3-B4 singles.
All three round-robin pools in the mixed B1 singles featured multiple matches that ended in tie-breaks and the knockout phase of the event continued to produce some tense contests as Nair edged out Qasib Nazir 5-4(2) and Yvette Priestley defeated Maria Oshodi 5-4(2). Nair won his fourth tie-break in five matches to improve on his runners-up finish in the B1 singles in 2014.
The men’s B2 singles saw Matthew Page and Jim Currie both advance to the final with relative ease. Uxbridge’s Page then raced through the decider 4-0, 4-1 to take the title after dropping a total of just five games across his four singles matches during the weekend.
The B2-B4 doubles saw both B3-B4 singles finalists on opposite sides of the net in another title decider, this time Baily coming on top with his partner Lock as they defeated David Buckley and Ryb 4-1.
Nair added his second title of the weekend in the B1 doubles, which saw all matches played out in a match tie-break format, leading to some close encounters. Nair and Chris Jefferies won the final against Nazir and Priestley 10-6.
After successive women’s singles titles at the championships in 2013 and 2014 Reynolds claimed the B4 women’s singles titles this year in style, winning three of her four round-robin matches 4-0, 4-0 and dropping her only three games in the event to runner-up Rosine Pybus after a 4-1, 4-2 win against the Darlington player.
Leytonstone’s Brenda Cassell won the B2-B3 women’s singles after a tense semi-final that saw her come from behind to beat Sarah Fortescue 3-5, 4-0, (10-3). However, after winning her two round-robin group matches in straight sets Cassell recovered from dropping a set against Fortescue to hit top form again in the final and raced to a 4-0, 4-0 victory over Wendy Glasper.
The B2-B4 women’s doubles ended in victory for Odette Battarel and Amanda Green, who overcame a substantial challenge from Glasper and Pybus in the final to seal a 5-3 win.
The championships also incorporated the first ever Tennis Foundation Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis Awards with many deserving nominees. The winners were decided by a panel put together from the Tennis Foundation and members of the GB Visually Impaired Advisory Group. Dave Donnelly was voted Male Personality of the Year, Dawn Fradgley won Female Personality of the Year, Leslie Snaith was voted Coach of the Year and the Volunteer of the Year Award was won by Odette Battarel.
“We are delighted to have had a record entry this year for the National Visually Impaired Tennis Championships and we had an exceptionally high level of tennis,” said David Hardman, the Tennis Foundation’s Disability Development Manager for London & South East.
“Blind and visually impaired tennis shows how the sport can be adapted for absolutely anyone to play and enjoy. We’ve supported an increasing number of blind and visually impaired tennis sessions across the country this year and it’s great that so many people are now enjoying the game. I’m sure the National Championships will only inspire many more to take up the sport and we are extremely excited for the future of the sport.”