By Karen Ronney
Landon Sachs found tennis at the perfect time in his life. The senior from JSerra Catholic High School was looking for a new hobby and tennis was the perfect answer. He picked up a racket in January and quickly made the junior varsity team. There was one caveat, however, Landon plays tennis from a wheelchair, and competes against able-bodied peers. As per USTA regulations, the only adaptation was Landon could use two bounces instead of the traditional one-bounce rule.
“Landon is a great athlete and took to tennis very quickly,” said Keith Orahood, the Boy’s Tennis Coach at JSerra High. “He is focused and a very hard worker. He had a great season and was an important part of our team.”
Sachs was one of 24 participants in the recent 1st Annual Up-Down Wheelchair Fundraiser sponsored by the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation. Proceeds from the event were earmarked to benefit Wheelchair Tennis San Diego, an organization based out of Barnes Tennis Center.
“I would like to play (adaptive) tennis in college at San Diego State University,” Sachs said.”My goal is to get good enough to be a ranked open player.”
Sachs’ brother, Myles Sachs, picked up a racket one month ago for original purpose of playing in the Up-Down tournament with his brother. After one event, he was hooked on the sport.
“I’ll make a habit of this because it’s a lot of fun,” Myles said. “Everyone was so encouraging and supportive. I laid it out there and told them I was very inexperienced. They were very understanding.”
The Up-Down tournament format partnered 12 wheelchair with 12 stand up players to create “Up-Down” doubles teams, meaning one wheelchair player with one able-bodied player. They were divided into round robin groups and played 20 minute matches. The winners were determined by the top two players in each category with the highest winning percentages.
Henry Reyes, who was ranked No. 20 in the world junior wheelchair rankings in 2019, clinched first place in the wheelchair division and Sachs, was a strong second. In the “Up” category, Michaela O’Melveny placed first and Greg Fitzgerald was second. Top finishers received a $100 gift card to Tennis Warehouse, second-place participants earned a $50 gift card. Prizes were provided by the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation.
We are so grateful for the support from the SCTA Foundation,” said Jeffrey Lee, the tournament coordinator. “It’s also amazing to see the community, family and friends of players not only cheer for us but play with us.”
DJ Lombardo, a wheelchair participant, trains regularly in the wheelchair program at Barnes Tennis Center. The Up-Down Wheelchair Fundraiser was a new experience for him.
“I typically play against wheelchair players but to mix it up and have family and friends come out made it so much more fun,” Lombardo said. “We have great matches and rallies. It was just an incredible time.”
Entering as an “Up” player was a first for Sheryl Munning of San Diego. “This is different from the types of matches I normally play. It makes you think differently and use new strategies.”
“Up” player Sue Sprague has experienced playing tennis from a wheelchair in previous events. “I learned it’s difficult to play in a wheelchair,” Sprague said. “That gave me a new perspective. It’s like anything in life. Once you experience it then you understand it. To see people do really well from a chair makes me really impressed.”
The proceeds from the event will go toward maintaining wheelchair equipment and supporting tournaments for the Wheelchair Tennis San Diego program.
“People show up to play tennis with worn tires and we currently do not carry any replacement tires or tubes in the equipment shed,” Lee said. “It would be great to help to help them with replacements.”
Additional areas earmarked for funding include the annual Hendrickson Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament as well as a new wheelchair tennis programs for juniors throughout San Diego.
“Our mission is to help tennis players, organizations and programs in all areas and wheelchair tennis is one of our priorities,” said Linda Milan, the Executive Director of the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation. “We are proud to support this fundraiser because the Up-Down format is inclusive bringing wheelchair players together with family and friends on the court.”
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TENNIS ASSOCIATION FOUNDATION
Our mission of “Changing Lives and Communities through Tennis,” serves as a pathway to offer financial support to individuals and organizations. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and the charitable arm of USTA Southern California. We help people of all ages and abilities to improve their tennis health, tennis fitness and quality of life through the sport of tennis. Founded in 1986, the SCTA Foundation has had a community impact of giving more than $500,000 this year through tennis grants, tennis scholarships, tennis program support, tennis equipment and more to recipients throughout Southern California. To learn more about the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation, please visit sctafoundation.org. To donate CLICK HERE