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Belsize Park blind tennis player’s journey from novice to world leader – in the space of two years

PUBLISHED: 09:51 29 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:59 29 May 2018

VI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna Ashby

VI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna Ashby

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A blind tennis player has made amazing progress from beginner to one of the best in the world – in the space of two years.

VI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna AshbyVI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Naqi Rizvi, 27, of Belsize Park Road, reached the semi-finals of the International Blind Tennis Association tournament in Dublin last month.

He only started playing VI (visually impaired) tennis in January 2016.

Naqi told the Ham and High: “I never expected, in my wildest dreams, that I would be number four in the world. It was amazing.”

Naqi trains at Globe Tennis Club, in Haverstock Hill. It’s here where he has been able to progress since joining in November last year.

He explains: “I did VI sessions at Islington Tennis Club but that was only once a month.

“I was really, really keen to get more practise and thought I’d give it a go at Globe. Rob Deane, who’s in the committee, was very welcoming and arranged for volunteers to play with me.”

The club now puts on fortnightly VI sessions, and Naqi is able to practise at least once a week.

He continues: “Being able to practise weekly is a massive help. I can now work on the things I want to work on and get to meet new people.”

VI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna AshbyVI tennis player Naqi Rizvi at Globe Tennis Club in Belsize Park. Picture: Siorna Ashby

Naqi is classified as a “B1” player, being completely blind.

In B1 tennis, the court is much smaller: 12.8 metres by 6.1m compared to the standard size of 23.8m by 8.2m.

Players are allowed up to three bounces and the ball makes a sound. The net is also lower, and players have to ask their opponents if they are “ready” before a serve is made.

With experienced players, rallies of over six shots are possible – something which Naqi achieves regularly in sessions at Globe.

The club sponsored his tournament trip to Dublin, where he lost to the world’s number one in the semis.

Naqi recalls: “My attitude in Dublin was to relax and enjoy. And the last two matches were the best I played.

“If I had the opportunity to play every day, I would. The only factor I have to consider is the weather – the natural elements can be a big factor as VI tennis balls are very light.”

For more information about VI sessions at Globe or to volunteer, email globeltc.tennis@gmail.com

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