wheelchair tennis player hitting the tennis ball

Denise finds wheelchair tennis


Wheelchair Athlete Finds Her Match

It’s been five years since the Parasport Expo left Denise Fitzgerald with the feeling that she’d never know if she didn’t try. The morning of the event, Denise didn’t expect to play wheelchair tennis, but with an encouraging nudge she gave it a whirl. When the neon green ball bounced on her side of the court, Denise quickly discovered that tennis was her sport.

The new hobby showcased skillful hand-eye coordination that resurfaced from her fastball days as did her competitive drive to do better. After the expo she continued to play with a group, and as her skills advanced, she moved onto private lessons three to four times per week.

It didn’t take long for her to get the itch for challenge and competition so her coach, Marijke Nel (technical director for Tennis Nova Scotia) started exploring opportunities to enter her into tournaments in other provinces. Unfortunately, plans to compete switched course when she suffered a shoulder injury requiring surgery.

Despite the setback, Denise’s competitive mindset was still strong. Wasting no time after surgery, she was back on the court, ready to take a swing at the next obstacle and she says challenge is what she thrives on. “Having to think competitively about shots, serves and play as well as being challenging gives me the drive I once had with competitive fastball.”

woman inwheelchair playing tennis

Denise’s vision for the future of wheelchair tennis is to watch it thrive to a competitive level in Nova Scotia. She praises Marijke Nel’s role in growing the parasport in the province, “Marijke has been a huge advocate for wheelchair tennis and without her determination, skills, and commitment the sport may not have been possible and we would simply not be where we are today. She’s taken the time to teach other able-bodied tennis players to play and coach us to have more access to court time.”

Denise’s message is to try, "if there is any sport that interests you, try it. There are lots of sports available for all physical abilities and skill levels as well great support from those coaches running the program.”

Thinking of trying parasport? Wheelchair tennis is always welcoming new players- you never know, you might luck out and find your new favourite sport.