Houston Tournament Shows Off New Form Of Adaptive Tennis

On December 9th, athletes from around the world came to Houston, Texas to compete in a relatively new sport: Stand-Up Adaptive Tennis. Only around competitively for the past couple years, athletes are eligible to compete in Stand-Up Adaptive Tennis events if they have some form of physical disability. This could include an amputation, congenital malformation, hemiparesis, or cerebral palsy altering their physical abilities in some way but still allowing them to play tennis on their feet.

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Matthew Bulow competing in the USA TAP Open. Photo Courtesy of Justin Tzou.

For the next three days, Houston hosted the 2016 USA TAP Open, the main event in the world of Stand-Up Tennis and the first of its kind in the United States. International players faced off against US and local athletes in exciting competition. At the Houston tournament, players competed for the title in the top three divisions: A1, A, and B. A1 and A athletes are the most mobile, usually playing with upper limb or minor lower limb impairments, while B competitors are less mobile and play a slightly modified match.

Results:

A1: 1st Place – Hitoshi Takahashi / Japan 

     2nd Place – Filemon Armas / Mexico 

A:   1st Place – Ivan Corretja / Spain 

     2nd Place – Harold Von Koch / Sweden 

B:   1st Place – Jose Luis Huerta / Chile 

     2nd Place – Carl Williams / USA 

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2016 Division A Runner-Up Harold Von Koch (left) and Champion Ivan Corretja (right). Photo Courtesy of Justin Tzou.

Cindy Benzon, one of the organizers of the event and a tennis service representative for USTA Texas, said that they had “nine Americans from different parts of the country compete and now they have gone back to their tennis communities and told them about this amazing event and are spreading the word.” While the USA TAP Open certainly had a profound impact on adaptive athletes in the Houston area, the other American athletes will cause a ripple-effect in their own communities causing more and more adaptive and able-bodied tennis players to get involved.

Jeff Bourns, who brought this new sport to our attention, has been competing on the TAP World Tour since 2015 and has been involved in adaptive tennis for several years. Jeff is a member of the adaptive/wheelchair committee of USTA Texas and runs a clinic on adaptive and amputee tennis in the Houston area.

“It was a great honor to play in the USA TAP Open. It was a historic benchmark in the sport of tennis in the United States. While it was great to play in the event I am more proud of being one of the individuals whom helped organize it. It will create many new opportunities for people in the future.

While we will work on ways to improve the International Tournament for next year, we also used the event as spring board to begin to start more programs and get more teaching pros to work with those with physical disabilities who want to play tennis standing.

It will take a global effort of advocacy and time to get this category of play created but I think we are on the right track.” – Jeff Bourns

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USA and international players after the 2016 USA TAP Open.  Photo courtesy of Justin Tzou.

The 2016 USA TAP Open was a terrific advancement because it showed that Stand-Up Adaptive Tennis can provide incredible value for people with many disabilities. Ms. Benzon also told us that another reason “the tournament committee decided to host the TAP Tour in the US was to be able to highlight that anyone with a physical disability can play tennis if they have the desire.” For many people with amputations and progressive disabilities it can be extremely difficult to lose the ability to do a certain activity. This is why adaptive sports like this are important. They can give athletes a second chance on a sport they love or a chance to try something new.

2016 was an exciting year for adaptive tennis and the USA TAP Open added to that excitement. Throughout the year, the other major form of adaptive tennis, Wheelchair Tennis, saw an exciting milestone as well with the first Wheelchair Tennis Singles events played at Wimbledon. While adaptive sports are not new as a whole (with the Paralympic Games around since 1960) it is exciting to see new sports like Stand-Up Adaptive Tennis being developed in the past few years. Now that the framework for the sport is established the movement shifts to bring more athletes and coaches into the fold.  In this case, it may take crutches, prosthetics, or coaching adjustments gameplay for some to compete, but it is resulting in an exciting movement that we can only hope will continue to take hold in the US.

For more information about adaptive tennis contact Cindy Benzon at Benzon@texas.usta.com

 

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