Interview with Naqi Rizvi
By Mark Bullock
When did you start playing blind tennis?
My first session of blind tennis was in January 2016 and I've never looked back since.
What do you love about blind tennis?
I can say that I love many aspects of the game not least building up my fitness, controlling my stress on court, building resilience, hitting targeted shots, developing tactics and strategies, improving mental concentration and controlling power to improve accuracy. Even though this list sounds long and could apply to other sports, there's something about tennis that is quite intangible which makes me love this sport beyond measure. In fact, tennis is probably my only addiction.
What are the major rule changes for blind/visually impaired tennis?
Visually impaired tennis is segregated based on sight category to make the game fair. The levels range from B1 to B5 where B1 are totally blind players and B5s have good vision but would still be classified as visually impaired. Not only are the court sizes different (B1s play on the smallest court) but the number of bounces varies. B1s get 3 bounces whereas B4s and B5s only get 1. As the ball can't really be heard in the air, it's only fair to allow B1s more time to hear it as they can't see the ball at all. In terms of scoring though, the rules are the same as sighted tennis.
You attended the international event in Dublin earlier this year. Tell us about your experience.
Attending the World Championships changed my perspective on tennis. Not only did I get to play with international players but I got to learn a lot about how to study your opponent and restrategise. For example, I beat the world number 1 in our group stages as I was able to figure out a flaw which I used to my advantage. Of course, there may have been other factors too and the match was very tight but I felt like my strategy did deliver results. Also, seeing how different players from various countries are coached can also be a great learning. I now rank 4th in the world which looks good on my CV!
What other competitions do you play in?
I play in various regional tournaments around the UK and also at the nationals which will be in October this year. I try to get as much practice as possible but the lack of places, funding and volunteers makes it a bit difficult.
What advice would you give to people thinking of taking up blind/visually impaired tennis?
Give it a try. I love it but you might not enjoy it. You won't lose anything by trying it and if you like it, there is a lot of room to improve and develop. When you play the sport, you will realise that you not only get better at tennis but it helps you with other facets of life. this is a very safe sport and you can play it the way you like. You will also make a great circle of friends.
How do you see blind tennis developing in the future?
I am hopeful that blind tennis will get more funding and better coaches as this game has a lot of potential. The game is still evolving and everyone's voice should be heard. I am hopeful that it will spread to all countries around the world and that we'll have more international competitions. it is because of brilliant volunteers that we're able to do so much in the UK and I am very grateful to them for this.