There’s been a number of Greek-Australian tennis players on the scene this year, but few have confronted the challenges facing Christos Cypreou.
“After I lost my sight I thought a lot of things would not work out for me because of the sight difficulties but coming to blind sports has really changed my life,” he said.
Chris lost most of his sight in 1999, a complication from a chronic illness. He had to quit playing Australian rules football, and he says he became so withdrawn at one stage he feared leaving the house on his own. But after discovering blind tennis, he says his confidence returned and so did his desire of becoming a professional sportsman.
“I would love to play internationally, I would love to play professionally blind tennis I want to get to that international level, I’m working really hard at that.”
Blind tennis is a relatively new sport in Australia. Various tennis programs have a general disability category, with scope for blind players. Blind Sports Australia runs the only internationally recognised league for the vision impaired. Organisers are working towards holding Australia’s first blind tennis open with Japan next year. Blind Sports’ Ray Fitzgerald says the goal is to eventually push for a category in the Paralympics.
“They’re hoping to have it go there in 2030. However to do that you have to have your own local tournaments and an international tournament as well so we’re working in that direction,” he said.
It’s an exciting prospect for vision impaired athletes. Blind Sports Victoria’s Maurice Gleeson says sport participation for blind and vision impaired people can be limited.
“Your opportunity to be involved in sport and recreation is minimal, having a tennis program like this has given them a whole new way of life, a challenge they excel at something new they love and have a passion for.”
Blind tennis differs from regular tennis in that players warn each other when the ball has been served, and – depending on the vision capabilities of the player – more bounces are allowed before the ball is returned. Some players use a shorter raquet and the ball is larger and made from foam, with a bell or noise maker inside.
But Christos Cypreou says the game is just as competitive.
“You got to watch out for other balls too coming for other courts but it does get pretty competitive but I enjoy it. That’s why I do it for the competitiveness and the fun.”