The sport started in Japan 25 years ago.
The annual Metro Blind Tennis tournament was held at Putney’s National Tennis Centre last weekend.
The national two-day tournament for partially or completely visually impaired is run by the Metro Blind Sport charity in partnership with the Thomas Pocklington Trust.
Around 38 players from all over the UK, two from Spain, and 15 volunteers travelled to the National Tennis Centre, Roehampton, to take part on October 5 and 6.
The tournament is divided into two categories, partially visually impaired or completely, and players are able to take part in men and women singles, doubles and mixed doubles in the knockout competition.
The rules of ‘sound ball tennis’ are similar to the widely known sport except for the use of slightly shorter courts, shorter rackets and sounded balls.
Partially visually impaired players are allowed two bounces and volleying is not allowed.
Totally blind players are allowed multiple bounces of the ball.
Roy Smith MBE, chairman of Metro Blind Sport, said he did not want ‘blind rules’ restrictions but to allow visually impaired players to enjoy the game like it should be.
“Tennis is such a great sport to get everyone involved. Everyone can play it blind or not, in local courts, on holiday or on the playground.
“We need to get local schools to know about these sports so more of the blind younger generation can play with their friends. It is so easy and fun game for the blind community.”
Sound ball tennis was invented in Japan 25 years ago, by a visually impaired man who got frustrated with the lack of opportunity to play the game he loved.
Odette Battarel, women’s single champion for seven years, was defeated in the final in this year’s competition but was pleased to take part in the tournament.
Ms Battarel, a Level 2 tennis coach, said: “It’s not only about the tennis but the social side too. It’s great to have so many people involved and we all went out after Saturday to a local restaurant and had a great evening out. The competition gets bigger each year; we even had a reserve list this year.
“This club is so friendly we all enjoy each other’s company.”
Ian Francis, Metro Sports Development Officer, said the roles of the volunteers were crucial for the tournament to run.
“We always need volunteers on each court. They are so important to pay attention to the games, keep scores, making sure everything is running to schedule.
“We are thankful for them to take their time to help,” he said.
Metro Blind Sport is a London based Sports and Social Club for blind and partially sighted people of all ages, organizing sports activities such as tennis, cricket, bowls, athletics and many others.
Thomas Pocklington Trust is a leading provider of housing and support for people with sight loss.
For more information on upcoming Metro events visit http://www.metroblindsport.org.
You can also contact Thomas Pocklington Trust on 020 8995 0880 or visit http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk
Photo courtesy of James Jordan, with thanks.
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