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Championship wheelchair tennis rolls through Truckee

Dan Savickas

The 18th Tahoe Donner International Wheelchair Tennis Sectional Championships which is a part of the NEC wheelchair tennis tour CS-3 International Tennis Federation rolled into Truckee this weekend with competitors from 18 different countries from around the world.

Wheelchair tennis holds true to all of the modern rules of tennis with the exception of one. In wheelchair tennis the ball is allowed to bounce twice on a competitors side, but only if the first bounce lands in bounds. If the first bounce lands in-bounds the competitor can play the ball even if the second bounce hits out-of-bounds.

Everyone from first-time tennis players just learning the game to professionals attended the tournament at Tahoe Donner.

Many of the professionals came to the tournament looking to score points to place them in the top four players from their country. By finishing in the top four these athletes have a shot at being chosen to represent their country in the Paralympics next summer in Athens Greece.

Fabian Mazzei traveled to the tournament from his home-country of Italy. Since a skiing accident seven years ago landed him in a wheelchair, Mazzei has been playing tennis.

“I started playing 14 years before my incident,” Mazzei said. “After I said why not start (to play in a wheelchair).”

“I’m in a wheelchair but not finished with my life. It’s beautiful (wheelchair tennis), I travel the world and know many people,” he added.

In Italy Mazzei teaches people that had recent incidents how to play tennis in a wheelchair at the hospital.

“If you stay well in the mind, you stay well in all that you want,” he said.

Mazzei’s friend and doubles partner from Italy, Marco Verzeroli, also teaches wheelchair tennis in hospitals.

“For people to think life is possible (after ending up in a wheelchair) is good,” Verzeroli said.

Verzeroli has also been playing tennis in a wheelchair for seven years, but unlike Mazzei he did not play before his accident.

Verzeroli was an avid soccer player before a motorcycle accident that left him in a comma for 24 days. After he came to, he was watching wheelchair tennis in the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics.

Verzeroli now travels the world competing.

“Its so much more than tennis,” said founder and tournament director Bonni Hickson. “At first people cannot conceive wheelchair tennis and the level of competition it produces. Then they watch and see that it’s great tennis and they don’t see the chair anymore.”

“It shows people in the community if something happened to them they can still thrive and be whole. We try to bridge the gap and show people the greater possibilites of what happiness and wholeness is. Just because we’re in pain doesn’t mean we can’t have fun,” Hickson said.


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