I ventured to a great wheelchair tennis tournament on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) tour, the Arizona Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament in Tucson, Arizona. I’m not sure exactly how long this tournament has been on the schedule but I know that they have consistently run a wheelchair tennis tournament in the Tucson area for what must be going on in its third decade.
I remember going to the old location at the El Conquistador club nestled just beneath the beautiful mountain range running along the north side of the sprawling desert city which was then run by a local tennis legend Jennifer Fuchs, but over the past decade or more the tournament has settled into its new home at the Refkin Tennis Center closer to the heart of downtown in the city.
No matter the location, the weather in Tucson in the beginning of March is ideal to slip down to Arizona and enjoy the warm sun and dry climate of Tucson.
For those of you who don't know who I am. I have been playing wheelchair tennis since the mid to early 80s and am from Orange County, California, the birthplace of the sport of wheelchair tennis. I have played tennis on and off since then and like to consider myself as a piece of the sports history here in the United States as a previous #1 in Men’s Open Doubles longtime top 5 in singles and a couple decades of being maybe the best in California depending on who you talk to maybe and not alot of head to head match-ups with Foulks, Baldwin or whoever could be considered. I represented Team USA at The Invacare World Cup team in 2010 in Antalya Turkey as a pinnacle to my playing career.
However, I have long been a leader in the advocacy of the sport as former founder of Chairsports.com (those who don’t know it look it up on wayback machine) and of course the sole builder of the website this article has been first released on AdaptiveAthletics.net. Anyways, I will simply say I have a passion for sports and care about our community, just like about anybody who is involved in these sports.
Okay, back to this year in Tucson.
I would like to share about the wonderful people who put on this year’s tournament: Mia Hansen & Jason Keatseangsilp under the auspices of the Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports (SAAS) organization.
Mia is a wonderful lady who I came to know this year who has been involved in one way or another in adaptive sports for I’m sure must be most likely probably a half of a century, if I had to guess. She is the sister of living legend Mark Hansen, a former Quad Open tennis player and Quad Rugby player. From some of the stories I was able to soak up, Mia has been a formative staple in adaptive sports through enjoying and supporting her brother for many years and has continued on to help organize these sports out of the pure joy and camaraderie she has found in them. She is a truly wonderful lady and I will not spoil her ability or that of others to share it here with our community.
Jason is currently listed as #3 on the USTA Men’s Open Singles list as of the writing of this article and #39 on the current ITF Men’s Open Rankings List. Jason is not only a super talented young American tennis player, but he is truly a very nice and well organized compliment to the tournament as Co-Tournament Director.
I have never had the chance to play Jason and unfortunately he was sitting out of the competition nursing a recent injury from his current play on the Uiniqlo/ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour. Best of luck to his ventures in the future.
So for me as a returning player to the game, I had chosen to attend and compete in this year’s Tucson tournament to get a chance to once again play the sport I love but also more importantly continue to spread the word about the website I am building and share the opportunity for networking with the current players.
So let me share what I discovered about this year’s pool of 44 wheelchair tennis players that also made the decision to compete and accrued the expense and pleasure of participating, 10 Coed C Singles, 15 Coed B Singles, 8 Coed A Singles and 3 Men’s Open Singles players comprised the field with 9 females spread out and amongst these divisions. There were even 6 Coed 18 & under singles competitors (juniors)! This was and is the kind of tournament that reminds me of the roots I remember of this sport as a junior myself. A wonderful conglomeration of the young and the old coming together and sharing in the amazing sport of tennis and proving yet again to the world the power of the human will and what is possible!
Hats off to all the competitors that competed and congratulations to the organizers for a job well done and to the winners for their commendable preparation and competitive will to win.