Story Eve Jeffery & Photos Kelly Cox
Local wheelchair tennis players converged on courts in Coffs Harbour over weekend for the finals of the 2012 Key Employment Northern NSW Wheelchair Tennis tournament.
Ballina athlete Gordon Cox played the Gold Coast’s Phillip Rowe in the finals with Phil coming away from the tournament champ with a 10–7 win over Cox in a hard-fought match. At the end of the day it was Rowe’s twenty years of wheelchair tennis experience that held him strong and saw him pocket the $500 prize money. A former world rank of 31 in singles and 29 in doubles, Rowe will have to watch out in next year’s event as Gordon Cox plans have a better preparation; all he needs is a hard court to train on and he will be hell on wheels.
For Cox it was just his second foray back into the tennis world after loosing the use of his legs in a motorbike crash a few years ago. Before his accident Cox had been an A-grade player, and blisters and sore muscles aside, Gordon was a force to be reckoned with over the two-day tournament. The general consensus is that with court time he will do really well. This event and the NSW Open he played a few weeks ago with no practice at all have unearthed Cox as a future force. If he can do this well with no training at all over the last five years, nor any wheelchair tennis coaching or prep, imagine how far he’ll go with court time.
The baby of the group, Pottsville’s Lindsay King, with spina bifida, started playing wheelchair tennis when he was seven. Lindsay trains two days a week at the Kingscliff Tennis Club with 2000 Paralympian and silver medalist David Johnson. ‘I love tennis,’ said Linsday after his Saturday afternoon match against Cox. ‘I just love it. It’s a great game.’
Ben Baker travelled from Brisbane for the event; he has been playing wheelchair tennis since 1994 and is now semi-retired. He is a former world-ranked number 121 in singles and 150 in doubles. Ben trains regularly with Queensland wheelchair tennis squad. He says the reason he loves tennis is that it’s as much a mental game as it is physical.
In its eighth year, the tournament held annually in November is growing at a steady rate and organisers are always looking for new competitors. The players, yet again, are extremely grateful to the Coffs Harbour Westside Tennis Academy and organiser Allan Pade for his tireless efforts in running the tournament each year.