As Wimbledon draws to a close, over the course of the next week Great Britain will be represented by a group of tennis players in action in another international tennis tournament. Following the opening ceremony today, the country’s leading tennis players with a learning disability will be taking on the world’s best at the 2018 Inas World Championships in Paris.
The Championships will see 40 of the world’s elite para-athlete tennis players with a learning disability compete to be crowned world champions in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles, and an overall team competition.
Players from nine nations will be competing, including players from Italy, France, Belgium & Australia. The British team will comprise five players this year, with all of them being part of the Tennis Foundation’s Learning Disability Performance Programme :
– Luke Turnbull ( 14 – North Berwick, Scotland)
– Anna McBride (14 – Dunfermline, Scotland)
– Fabrice Higgins (23 – Chorley, Lancashire)
– Dominic Iannotti (20 – Prestwick, Scotland)
– Thomas Mellor (28 – Cheltenham, Gloucestershire)
Oliver Beadle, 18, has also been selected as a reserve member of the team.
After medal success at last year’s event where team GB won a total of five medals, the team will be looking to return with more medals. Here we profile the players that will be donning GB colours over the next six day.
Age you started playing: Started playing at 3 with my mum.
Favourite player: Andy Murray
Most memorable tennis moment: Getting selected for Great Britain and winning the LD finals
Favourite thing about tennis: The enjoyment of competing in matches
What you would say to someone who wanted to get involved in Learning Disability tennis: Just go for it and enjoy the experience of meeting new people at different clubs and countries
What is the biggest benefit you’ve had from playing tennis: The sport changed my life. As I got success, I gained confidence and met lots of new people.
Age you started playing tennis: 8
Reason for starting tennis: By chance. I joined a one-hour-per-week holiday taster session for a few weeks. I liked it that much that I joined a tennis club so I could play more
Favourite players: Johanna Konta/Roger Federer
Most memorable tennis moment: Getting a lot of laughs after asking Andrew Castle to sign all four corners of my tennis ball
Favourite thing about playing: Tennis has given me the opportunity to excel and gain achievements doing something I love
What you would say to someone who wanted to get involved in Learning Disability tennis: Give it a go; you will meet lots of new friends. There are always plenty of helpers to make competition fun and fair
What is the biggest benefit you’ve had from playing tennis: Playing tennis has increased my confidence, physical strength and coordination.
Age you started playing tennis: 6
Reason for starting tennis: My Nana bought me a wooden racket whilst on holiday in Wales, I wanted a badminton racket to play with my Dad and brother, as my Dad was good at badminton and he thought I should try it, as he was always trying to get me involved in some type of sport because I was very shy and he felt it would help me, but the shop didn’t have any, so my nana brought back a wooden tennis racket set.
My Dad noticed straight away that I picked the sport up really quickly, which was strange as I had struggled with other sports, so as soon as we got home, my parents looked for a tennis squad I could join. The Northern, in Manchester was just starting mini tennis lessons a month after, so I went along and loved it.
Favourite player: Rafa Nadal
Most memorable tennis moment: Becoming Men’s INAS World number one and winning my first triple, three golds for Great Britain in INAS in Czech Republic.
Favourite thing about playing: I love competing and especially winning. I also get to train and travel the world and meet other players who have become great friends.
What you would say to someone who wanted to get involved in Learning Disability tennis: Come along, try it out, you’ll have lots of fun and meet others similar to yourself.
What is the biggest benefit you’ve had from playing tennis: It has made me more confident as a person; I have met friends from all over the world. It’s a great way also so have discipline which has kept me fit and healthy.
Age: 20 years old
Age you started playing tennis: 10 years old
Reason you started playing tennis: Had an interest in the sport from a young age when attending parent and child sessions.
Favourite tennis player: Rafael Nadal
Most Memorable Tennis moments: Winning the INAS World Championships in doubles in 2017
Favourite thing about playing tennis: Meeting new people from all over the world and getting to play in different countries and experience different surroundings and cultures.
What would you say someone who wanted to get involved in Learning Disability tennis: Tennis is a great sport to take part in as it is an open sport to all ages and abilities.
What is the biggest benefit you’ve had from playing tennis: Met great players and coaches within the sport and have had some amazing experiences when representing my country.
Thomas was first introduced to tennis at his school, aged six. He began playing short tennis and quickly progressed to reach county level by the age of ten. Since Thomas joined the Tennis Foundation’s Learning Disability Performance Programme he has gone on to represent Great Britain in numerous international INAS events. Thomas also enjoys playing other sports including squash and badminton, and his sporting hero is Andy Murray. Thomas’s ultimate tennis ambition is to be a full time tennis coach.
Age you started playing tennis: 7
Reason for starting tennis: My older brother started to play and that made me want to get involved
Favourite player: Andy Murray all the way — even when he’s injured
Most memorable tennis moment: Winning double gold for Team GB at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles in 2015 — both mens’ singles and mixed doubles
Favourite thing about playing: The winning feeling
When not playing tennis: I love all sports, including badminton, football, cricket, and dodgeball and I’m a keen Chelsea FC supporter.
What you would say to someone who wanted to get involved in Learning Disability tennis: Definitely go for it! You will meet lots of new people, travel to new places and get really good coaching by people who understand you and your needs. You will get lots of opportunities to train and play tennis.
What is the biggest benefit you’ve had from playing tennis: Feeling successful, meeting new people and travelling all over the country and the world. Also having the opportunity to train at the National Tennis Centre next to inspirational British tennis stars like Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson.