A man who has been unable to see from the age of seven has been named the number one blind tennis player in the world.

Naqi Rizvi, who lives in Belsize Park, only took up the sport in 2016 and says he has claimed the top spot through "a lot of hard work, sweat and blood".

Playing the B1 visually impaired category for those with the greatest sight loss, the 32-year-old achieved the top ranking this year after victories at the International Blind Sports Association World Games in Birmingham, the International Blind Tennis Association World Championships in Krakow, Poland, and national competitions at Wimbledon.

Between November 17 and 19 he will be defending the title he has twice won previously at the UK nationals in Wrexham, Wales.

Diagnosed with congenital glaucoma as a child, he lost all sight by age seven.

Half Indian, half Pakistani, he came to Britain in 2015 from Asia to pursue a postgraduate degree at UCL.

He was introduced to tennis at London charity Metro Blind Sport in 2016.

Visually impaired tennis is played on a smaller court with a lower net. Players use a junior racquet and ball that makes a noise when it bounces or is hit.

Naqi was hooked.

"I fell in love with tennis, I wanted to continue," said Naqi. "I was rubbish but I enjoyed it. I had no idea how to hit a ball, no idea how to serve."

He started in regional tournaments a year later, and by 2018 Naqi was at a "decent level" and taking part in competitions.

He joined the Globe Lawn Tennis Club, and credits volunteers at the club in Haverstock Hill, who "went the extra mile", coming out with him in all weathers to practice.

A game in Ireland in 2018 was a turning point. "I didn't come first but I was not the worst," he said.

"From the beginning I've had the best technique, the best mental resilience, I had a lot of passion for the game and I was willing to put in the hours and willing to listen to people giving me feedback and willing to invest a lot more money into it."

Working full time as a product manager in financial services, he has only 25 days' annual leave, but now travels all over the world competing.

But unlike in mainstream tennis championships, there is no prize money and no sponsorship deals.

Naqi said: "I don't know any visually impaired tennis player who is paid. If I could, I would like to do this more and not worry about getting myself to work.

"World Cup tennis took years and years until it was recognised and big brands would rather sponsor the mainstream where they can get more visibility and recognition.

"If I could get funding, at least break even on how much I spend on the sport, that would be a start."

He added: "One of the main reason to share this story to see if people would be interested to learn more and sponsor us.

"Also anyone who thinks they can't do sport, there are people who have done it who have broken the mould and you have it in you as well. There are many charities out there, please don't let it hold you back.

"I couldn't have done it without the sports structure around me, be that Metro, the Globe, and the amazing volunteers who are there week in week out even in the depths of winter to support me, call the lines, tell me if the ball is in or out or just to have a hit with me. They are the heroes."

The Globe Lawn Tennis Club said: “We are immensely proud to witness Naqi’s remarkable journey. His determination, belief and unwavering grit have helped him break barriers and show the world the potential of the human spirit.

"As a tennis community, we stand in awe of what Naqi has achieved, proving that tennis is a game of heart and resilience”.