12-YEAR-OLD GB WHEELCHAIR TENNIS STAR WHO OVERCAME LIFE-THREATENING INFECTION VISITS DUKES MEADOWS TO MEET IDOL TIM HENMAN
The story of Esperanza Merry will warm the coldest of hearts. The amazing 12-year-old from Plymouth overcame a life-threatening disease just five months ago which left her confined to a wheelchair and crutches for life. Determined not to give up on her love for tennis Esperanza has now taken up wheelchair tennis and in just this short space of time she has gone from strength to strength.
Her amazing talent has been recognised by the Tennis Foundation and she recently became a member of the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Programme, leading to her selection to be a part of the GB Junior Team for the 2013 BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Turkey, which began on Monday.
Before departing, Dukes Meadows, Chiswick, which is home to the prestigious FC** Tennis Academy invited Esperanza back to their Tennis Academy, where she previously trained, to meet with Tennis legend Tim Henman.
After being on court with Esperanza Tim Henman said:
“Esperanza is an inspiration, I’ve obviously heard her story and the issues that she has had to face but when you see her come out on court and see her enthusiasm and spirit, but also her determination, it is incredible. Not forgetting her talent - she is a fantastic player. Even though she is getting used to her chair, she’s got great shots, she’s got great timing and I’m sure we are going to see a lot more of her in the future.”
Having had a long affiliation with Dukes Meadows and its coaches, the Chiswick based tennis, golf and ski facility played part in the donation of a top of the range bespoke wheelchair to help support her Paralympic dreams for Rio 2016. Mobility is the most important aspect for a wheelchair tennis player and a customised sports chair is very expensive yet crucial for Esperanza to develop to her full potential. The contribution of a new bespoke tennis wheelchair, funded with help from Dukes Meadows, the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust and the Lord’s Taverners will be invaluable to her future in her beloved sport.
Dukes Meadows’ FC** Tennis Academy director James Lenton said:
“When I kept hearing how difficult The Merry Family were finding it to try and get funds for a wheelchair, I thought it was ridiculous; when I explained the situation at Dukes Meadows the decision was made in a heartbeat to help them in any way we could, so that’s what we’ve been doing.
“I think she is so inspirational to our kids at the FC** Tennis Academy – to be tackling the challenges she’s had at 12-years-old and be dealing with it in the positive way she has, that’s a lesson for anyone! What a great role model.”
James Lenton was a top ten British senior before his retirement aged 21 and has 20 years experience of which 10 years was as an LTA National coach, helping some of the best names in British Tennis win national and international titles.