Viewpoint - Tennis for anyone

Jessica Bavington is inspired by ‘VI tennis’ and thinks other physios could be, too

I was invited to umpire at a rather unusual and utterly inspiring tennis tournament a couple of years ago, and last year I had the privilege of playing in it.

This was the national ‘VI tennis’ tournament, organised by Metro, a London based sports club for blind and partially sighted people.

Much to my surprise, it’s a fast and furious game. Everyone is allowed two ball bounces, with those who have very low vision or are totally blind being allowed three.

The ball contains a bell or ball bearings, which gives the players the auditory input necessary to find it.

As a physio, I was astounded at the players’ ability to stay upright as they ran towards a ball, and the determination of those who did fall to get straight back up again as if nothing had happened.

I was also amazed at the brain’s ability to find the ball so quickly and somehow to get the racket in the right place at the right time.

As well as the usual doubles and singles, there was a mixed vision tournament, where a fully-sighted player partnered a visually-impaired player. I was invited to play by Paul, who has macular degeneration.

It took a bit of getting used to the shorter court, ball and racket, but it turned out to be a challenging and fun game.

It’s hugely enjoyable to be around inspiring people undertaking great things. It’s also satisfying to support a new and emerging sport, and to teach newcomers how it all works.

Metro is aiming to get the game into the Paralympics, and during the 2012 Paralympic Games the sport was showcased at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Funds are still needed to develop the sport, but physios may be in a perfect position to identify new players, and expand the game.

Maybe you know someone who is visually impaired, or have an impairment yourself?

Maybe you could help set up a group or help with sessions near you?

If you would like to find out more about VI tennis, please go to: and see if you feel similarly inspired.

Jessica Bavington is a self-employed physio specialist in fatigue and pain based in north London

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