Steven with his wife Colleen and dad, Vietnam Vet Terry at the Games late last year in Sydney.
Steven with his wife Colleen and dad, Vietnam Vet Terry at the Games late last year in Sydney.

Dual wheelchair tennis champ to contest local comp

DUAL Invictus Games participant Steven Fells is headed to Grafton for the third annual Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, hosted by the Grafton City Tennis Club.

The event, to be held from 9.30am on Saturday 23 February through to 6.30p on Sunday, February 24, has attracted competitors from the Sunshine Coast down to Sydney including both Fells (one of the oldest competitors in the event) and Paralympian Ben Weekes. Weekes will be involved in exhibition games on the Sunday.

Brisbane-based Fells said he was looking forward to the tournament, his third in Grafton though it will be a lot smaller than the most recent event the Kiwi-born player attended.

"I represented the NZDF in the Invictus Games in Wheelchair tennis, basketball and swimming," he explained of his Sydney experience - his second Invictus Games after the Toronto games in Canada in 2017.

"It is just the most incredible experience. It was awesome and I really enjoyed the games. The Invictus Games aims to get vets out of their loungeroom and gives them a purpose."

However, it doesn't sound like it takes former tour-guide and defense force personnel Fells much to get out of his house - training for tennis, basketball and swimming for Invictus with much younger team-mates.

"It only took me a week to recover," the laconic former Kiwi laughed about the effort the games took. And while he is obviously a sports fan - one stands out.

"I started playing tennis about 10 years ago," he admitted.

"I'd played basketball before that for 20 years when I was a bit younger.

"But Tennis is my passion now."

Fells said he had an accident in 1982 which left him with shattered pelvis and after leaving hospital he continued in the Defence forces further aggravating the injury to the point where his pelvis no longer supports him. Thirty-seven years later, it hasn't stopped him or kept him from enjoying his sport and Grafton tennis fans will once again get a chance to see him in action at the annual tournament.

The tennis tournament was started three years ago after a chance conversation between a Grafton tennis official and a wheel chair competitor according to event coordinator Ayesha Beckman.

"We had a wheelchair player at our North Coast Championships - his daughter was there playing in the competition," she said.

"We asked what we could do to make the club more inclusive."

Shortly after the club bought a sports wheel-chair and coach Phil Beckman began to coach his first wheelchair student.

"The person who delivered the chair remarked that we had a great surface and extra-wide gates and why don't we hold a tournament."

Starting times are 8.30am Singles on Saturday, finals of the singles will be on Sunday morning followed by the doubles.

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