Visually impaired tennis, already one of the fastest growing disability sports, continues to go from strength to strength after the 2018 National Championships in Loughborough at the weekend.
The event attracted a record number of entries, with the field including all of Great Britain’s medallists from this year’s International Blind Tennis Tournament in Dublin where the team took six global titles.
National titles were decided across four sight categories, B1 to B4/B5 – with B1 players having the greatest degree of sight loss.
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.
In the B1 category, London’s Rachel Morgan comprehensively defended her 2017 women’s singles title, losing only one game throughout the tournament, defeating Masuma Ali in the final. The North East’s Anthony Harrison took home the men’s singles B1 trophy after a nail-biting 7-6(4) tiebreak win against Nikhil Nair, reversing the result from their earlier round-robin clash.
Manchester’s Amanda Large followed up her debut win last year to defend the B2 Women’s Singles title without dropping a set. In the Men’s B2 category, Northern Ireland’s Brian Lenehan upset the form books to defeat 2017 winner James Currie and take the title.
Speaking after the event, Large said:
“What an incredible weekend! Fantastic volunteers, plenty of great competitive sportsmanship with a wonderful group of people that have become great friends. I am thrilled and over the moon to have won and retained my Women’s B2 singles national title”.
The B3 category also saw the women’s title defended and a new winner in the men’s competition with a double win for Surrey. Carshalton’s Janette Reynolds won her fifth national title, topping her group before going on to beat Sarah Fortescue in straight sets in the final.
Meanwhile, Kingston’s Chris Blake can now call himself a national champion after 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.
County Durham’s Samantha Murray got involved in visually impaired tennis through her friend Rosie Pybus. The pair came face-to-face in the B4/B5 competition with Murray winning a tight match to help her claim the trophy. Sussex’s Callum Lock won the men’s B4/B5 title for the fourth year in a row, winning his group before defeating Ivan Rodriguez-Deb in the final.
The doubles competition saw Minerva Ainsworth and Amanda Large retain their women’s title, with Sussex duo Chris Baily and Callum Lock teaming up again to retain their men’s title. Lara Green partnered Rachel Eve Morgan to claim the B1 doubles title.
Kirsty Thomson, the Tennis Foundation’s Disability Competition Manager – Tournament Delivery said:
“It is fantastic to see the growth of the sport continuing with so many people entering the Nationals this year and new faces challenging some of the established names to get among the winners. Tennis is a brilliant sport for people who are blind or partially sighted, and competitions like the Nationals are really enjoyed by everyone.
“I am particularly delighted to have had juniors competing at the event this year, a further sign of a bright future for the sport. The volunteers, officials and players all helped to make it a fantastic tournament once again and a fitting climax to what has been another amazing year for VI tennis”.
All of the winners would encourage others with a visual impairment to give the sport a go, with B4/B5 Women’s Singles champion Murray saying
“Go for it and enjoy it as much as you can – even if you lose a game or match don’t stop just keep practicing and you’ll get there. I’ve made some amazing friends by taking part in VI tennis and it’s making me a better person”.
To find out more about visually impaired tennis and how to get involved visit the Tennis Foundation’s dedicated website page and the Guide to Visually Impaired Tennis. Alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Blind Tennis UK Facebook group and ask other players!
Photos from the tournament are on our Facebook page via the link below:
2018 National VI Champions
Click on each winner below to read more:
Women – Minerva Ainsworth & Amanda Large
Men – Chris Baily & Callum Lock
B1 – Lara Green & Rachel Eve Morgan
Full results from the tournament are available online.
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