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Champion Grace smashing goals on and off the Blind and Low Vision tennis court

World champion Blind and Low Vision (BLV) tennis player Grace recently took to the court at the Australian Open, putting the spotlight on the fastest-growing sport for people with vision loss.
Grace standing in a doorway with Australian Open banners on either side of her. She is wearing a green and gold uniform and white sneakers and holding a green jacket, and is smiling.
  • Vision
  • Hearing

World champion Blind and Low Vision (BLV) tennis player Grace recently took to the court at the Australian Open, putting the spotlight on the fastest-growing sport for people with vision loss.

Diagnosed with profound hearing loss as a toddler, Grace’s family found NextSense soon after, and she received two cochlear implants and a range of therapies to support her, including audiology, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology.

She was later diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects both hearing and vision, and we have continued to work with her as she re-focuses her goals and embraces what she can do.

Having a dual sensory loss is challenging, but my NextSense therapist has supported me and offered ideas to reach my goals through humour, which suited me. I think the most important thing for me is that I felt important, valued, and understood.

— Grace

Looking for a way to help Grace connect with other people who had vision loss, her mother Corrynne found a BLV social tennis group nearby.

While the game is mostly the same as non-adaptive tennis, the ball is larger and made of foam with a rattle inside so it can be heard, and there are four different classifications depending on the player’s level of vision, with B1 players having no functional vision. The levels determine the size of the court, height of the net, whether there are tactile lines on the court, and how many bounces are permitted. Grace plays at B4 level.

Grace on an outside tennis court stepping forward and holding her racquet up as the ball nears her.

Before starting tennis, I was very socially isolated, so this has bought me out of my shell. The tennis community is like a travelling family… It has changed my outlook on life.

— Grace
Grace standing in front of greenery  wearing glasses and a green jacket with two gold medals around her neck. She is smiling.

In five short years, Grace has trained tirelessly and became the Number 1 Women’s B4 World Champion at last year’s International Blind Sport Federation World Games, where BLV tennis was offered for the first time.

Grace wears her cochlear implant on the court as she finds it helps with her sense of direction, balance and hearing and speaking with her opponent. In BLV tennis, when the server is ready to serve, they must ask, “Are you ready?”. The player can only serve after the receiver says “Yes”.

Tennis has opened up a world of opportunities for Grace. She recently returned from the Australian Open in Melbourne, where she got the chance to go behind the scenes with her team and play on Margaret Court Arena as part of the event’s All Abilities Day. Along with BLV tennis, other forms of adaptive tennis were showcased, including for people who use a wheelchair, are deaf and hard of hearing, have an intellectual disability or play the sport standing (known as para-standing or adaptive standing tennis).

A highlight for her was playing doubles with comedian and para-standing tennis player Adam Hills, who wore glasses that simulate eye disorder retinitis pigmentosa, which affects Grace’s peripheral vision.

Grace standing in the middle of a group of 3 women with 2023 IBSA World Games branding behind them. They are all wearing medals and are standing in front of a banner that says '1 - IBSA World Games 2023 Birmingham'.

The more adaptive tennis is spoken about, the greater the chance that it could change someone’s life like it did mine... I am so excited to see where this sport takes me.

— Grace

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