Tennis on two wheels, right here in Augusta

By: Matt Barnes Email
By: Matt Barnes Email

It's not very often you see wheelchairs rolling around on a tennis court. but every Monday in Augusta, you'll find just that.

"I'm enjoying it," said Ralph Butler, who lost his legs when a driver pinned him between her car and a sanitation vehicle. "It's something to keep me active and busy. I'm not fitting to let four walls keep me in the house all day."

"I played basketball a lot indoors but tennis, you can always find someone to hit with, whether in a wheelchair or able-bodied," said Alan Washington, who lost use of his legs when a crate fell on his back on a Navy cargo ship in 1987.

The adaptive tennis clinic is run by Donald Shapiro, who has been in a wheelchair since a car accident when he was 17 years old. The clinic isn't just for those in wheelchairs either but able-bodied people as well. Surprisingly, Shapiro didn't even play tennis before the accident.

"I played, football, basketball, baseball, and golf in the summer but I never really played tennis," said Shapiro. "But just being athletic, it's not a hard sport if you practice it and work at it."

As you can imagine, playing tennis in a wheelchair takes some time to get used to.

"It's real tough if you're not used to doing something like this," said Butler. "Getting out here pushing your chair, trying to swing the racket, get all mind-coordinated, it's rough."

"Once you get efficient in that, the game is easy," said Shapiro. "Just look at the size of the racket compared to the ball. It's huge."

the only rule change you'll find in wheelchair tennis is that the player is allowed two bounces before hitting the ball. Other than that, it's the exact same game.

But no matter how easy or hard it may be for the guys, there's one thing for sure. They're not letting a measly wheelchair slow them down one bit.

"There's no such thing as a handicapped person," said Butler. "You come out here and do the same thing an able-bodied person does. Only thing is you have to use your arms to move around."

"Come out and have fun. That's the point of it. If you enjoy the game, do it."


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