Surrey’s Chris Blake has won a national tennis title, claiming victory at the National Visually Impaired Tennis Championships in Loughborough at the weekend.
Blake, who trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton and Islington Tennis Centre in London and competes in the B3 category for players with a low level of partial sight, beat off the challenges of players from around the country to claim the trophy.
A series of brilliant performances saw him defeat two time international champion Chris Baily in the semi-finals before beating Christian Bolton-Edenborough in the final 4-2 2-4 10-7.
Speaking after the event, he said:
“I was dumbfounded and full of disbelief at first, had a private very quick tearful moment, shook hands and then the elation kicked in.
“The Nationals was my goal this year. I knew each match would be tough and I had been re-modelling my game with one of my biggest battles being fighting the inner demons, so when the match ball went into the net I had to do a double-take as I wasn’t really sure I had won!”
Blake took up visually impaired tennis last year, having played tennis when he was younger.
“I started playing tennis when I was about 5 or 6, back in the days of wooden rackets” he said. “Playing and watching sport is my passion so as a short-sighted young kid with poor vision I played all the usual school sports including tennis because I love hitting balls. When I started working post University tennis was easier to organise so played a lot of club tennis.
“When my eyesight deteriorated more though, and the pace of the ball was too much I played less and less. I eventually stopped playing and did not renew my membership at my club where had been a member for over 20 years. I then dabbled with the idea of visually impaired tennis in 2017 was unsure for a while but the joy of hitting balls won and decided to go all in!”
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 considering giving visually impaired tennis a try, Blake said: “It is so positive to play so go do it! There is a great team out there and excellent coaches – thank you Lee & Mark at the National Tennis Centre who are so keen to improve your game whatever your level. I am much fitter now and a better tennis player than I ever was!”
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!