Belfast Telegraph

Trail-blazing tennis players serve up very special victory

By Angela Rainey

Visually impaired tennis players from a club in Belfast are celebrating winning their first tournament.

Two teams from Ulster Visually Impaired Tennis Club (UVITC) thrashed their southern opponents Shankill in Dublin on Sunday.

They will now go through to the individual qualifying rounds in January where the best players will be picked to represent Team Ireland in the world championships in May.

Visually impaired tennis is played similarly to full-sighted tennis but the court is slightly shorter and narrower.

The tennis balls are larger and lighter and contain bells which enable players to sense its presence allowing them to take a swing.

The ball is allowed to bounce two or three times depending on sight level, but the point system is the same.

UVITC meets at Windsor Lawn Tennis Club, in Malone, south Belfast, every Monday.

The club sent two teams comprised of nine players with varying impairments: one whose members are completely blind and the other for those with some vision.

Debbie Shaw (above), who joined the club in May, said that she was never able to take part in sport at school because of her eyesight.

"Joining the club has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me - to meet new people, to learn a sport and it has also boosted my confidence.

"I am a different person - a whole new Debbie - thanks to the staff there who gave me the opportunity to play."

The world championships will be held in Dublin next year and coaches Simon McFarland and Michael Blease hope that some of their proteges will make it on to Team Ireland.

Simon said that the players beat more experienced Dublin counterparts on Sunday.

"I am very proud of the team and the hard work everyone put in," he added

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