Andy has a vision for Norfolk
A Norwich-based coach has outlined his vision for disability tennis in Norfolk as he looks to expand on a small but successful programme already in place.
Andy Santos began a four-week coaching course for deaf children at the Esporta Health and Racquets Club last Thursday, but he is keen to develop a substantial wheelchair tennis programme in Norfolk and perhaps discover a future star of the sport.
One such success story is Norfolk's own Alfie Hewett who, in 2010, at just 12, became the youngest Briton to gain a senior world ranking after a successful week at the British Open Wheelchair Championships.
Hewett was discovered by Easton Tennis Centre coach Sam Howlett, who has also spent time coaching disability tennis in Norfolk. Santos was coached by Howlett as a player and it was this connection that inspired him to become involved with disability tennis as he would join in with wheelchair groups after his own lesson.
'It's great to provide a chance for these guys to play tennis when perhaps they thought they would be unable to take part in sport,' he said. My aim is to develop a programme where we get players involved of all ages to play socially or to take it on at a competitive level.'
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Wheelchair tennis is growing worldwide and has been a feature of all four grand slam tournaments since 2005. The only rule change from the conventional game is that players are permitted to let the ball bounce twice, although Santos points out that the top players more often than not manage without.
He has expressed his wish to purchase two purpose-built wheelchairs for players to come and have a go at tennis, but sponsorship for these is only likely to be forthcoming if the interest is high enough.
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'When you order the chairs they only take about a week to arrive, so as soon as we can get people interested in tennis then we can move forward with that.
'If we can attract people from around the county to come and try it out then it could very quickly lead to a programme that produces players just like Alfie who go on to play the game at international standard.'
As well as wheelchair tennis, also under the disability tennis umbrella is Deaf Tennis, Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis which uses a specially developed ball with a bell, and Learning Disability Tennis. Further details of each can be found at the Tennis Foundation website, which is the funding arm of the LTA.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details or call him on 07923117980. Alternatively, visit the Disability Tennis Norfolk group on Facebook.