Co. Armagh’s Brian Lenehan has won a national tennis title for the first time at the National Visually Impaired Tennis Championships in Loughborough.
Lenehan, who competes in the B2 category for players with the low degree of partial sight, beat off the challenges of players from around the country, upsetting the form books to defeat 2017 winner James Currie in the final and take the title.
Speaking after the event, Lenehan said:
“After defeat in the world championships I felt I had a bit of work to do to bridge the gap to this level, so I set myself a target of the National Championships and worked towards it all summer. It was a fantastic experience playing with the top GB players, at a fantastic tournament, so to come away with the title, I’m honoured and proud. It’s what I worked for and really, no other outcome would have been satisfactory – the work I put in paid off.”
Harrison is a member of both CIYMS Tennis Club in Belfast and Ulster VI Tennis and trains at CI courts and Ozone indoor courts in Belfast.
“I started playing visually impaired tennis 18 months ago” said Lenehan. “I got involved through the Disability Sport NI programme, I had no real intention of doing so, but decided to give it a go purely on a recreational level. That quickly evolved to the urge to compete, and that very quickly evolved to the need to win titles!”
“My two main targets in the next 12 months are to now go on and win the world title, and defend my national title next year”.
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, Lenehan said:
“Get involved and give it a go, you can play at whatever level you feel comfortable with, and that will be respected. It is all about the players, regardless of level – whether that be top end performance, or purely social.”
You can learn more about VI tennis or find a session near you on the Tennis Foundation website or by emailing email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Blind Tennis UK Facebook group and ask other players!