Hartlepool’s Anthony Harrison has won a national tennis title for the first time at the National Visually Impaired Tennis Championships in Loughborough.
Harrison, who competes in the B1 category for players with the greatest degree of sight loss, beat off the challenges of players from around the country, claiming the trophy after a nail-biting 7-6(4) tiebreak win against Cambridge’s Nikhil Nair in the final.
Speaking after the event, Harrison said:
“It’s very exhilarating to win a national title. With everyone cheering me on it was quite intense at the end. Without a doubt it is something I will remember, particularly the moment of receiving my trophy.”
Harrison is a member of both Tees Valley Sound Tennis Club and the North East Visually Impaired Tennis Club (NEVITC), and says he feels lucky to belong to two great clubs. He has been playing visually impaired tennis for 18 months, having first got involved by chance when the NEVITC’s Wendy Glasper delivered a taster session at Hartlepool Blind Welfare.
“I had a go at that session and really enjoyed it” said Harrison, who now trains at venues across the North East including Middlesbrough, Stockton, Jesmond and Newcastle. “Since then I have won county and regional titles as well as the VI Cup in Sunderland. My focus now is to get more coaching and continue to get better.”
Visually impaired tennis is an adapted from the full court version of tennis and uses a smaller court marked out with lower nets and tactile lines, and an audible ball so players can hear it bounce. Depending on a player’s degree of sight loss they may have between one and three bounces of the ball before returning it back to their opponent. Competitions take place across four sight categories, B1 to B4/B5 – with B1 players having the greatest degree of sight loss.
Anyone interested in giving visually impaired tennis a try can contact the Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity. It is one of the fastest growing disability sports with participation thriving around the country.
Asked what he would say to anyone who could play visually impaired tennis, Harrison said:
“Give it a go – you don’t know until you try it. The social side is excellent – everyone is really helpful and friendly. It’s great for fitness too and the competitions are things you can really get stuck into.”
You can learn more about VI tennis or find a session near you on the Tennis Foundation website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUICK FACTS: Visually Impaired Tennis
- One of the fastest growing disability sports
- Ambitions for it to become a future Paralympic sport
- Adapted from the full court version of tennis to a smaller court, marked out with lower nets and tactile lines
- Uses an audible ball so players can hear it bounce
- Players compete in different categories, with B1 having the greatest degree of sight loss
- Depending on a player’s category they are allowed between one and three bounces of the ball
- Competitions are fun and friendly and take place regionally and nationally throughout the year!
- If you have any questions email email@example.com or join the Blind Tennis UK Facebook group and ask other players!