At the tennis tournament in Melbourne (January 16th to 29th), games by the blind and visually impaired will be shown for the first time. The tennis world is hoping for a big boost in attention for the sport, often called “soundball”. On January 23, the Australian Open’s first-ever blind and low-vision (BLV) tennis will be played. Eight players will compete there. They have received grants from the non-profit organization Blind Sports Australia to help spread the sport across the country.
How is blind and partially sighted tennis played?
The game looks pretty similar – but it sounds different. Therefore, it is often called “soundball”. Like tennis for the sighted, the game requires fast feet, concentration and precise angles. For many with little to no vision, it depends heavily on their ears. Players follow the sound of a special foam ball rattling across the court. The sound helps them to orient themselves. Courts are smaller, and in tennis matches involving blind players, lines are placed on the court to mark specific boundaries. Blind people are allowed up to three bounces on their side of the court. One or two jumps are allowed for people with visual impairments, depending on their classification.
Boost for Soundball
The debut at the Australian is a real boost for the sports. It’s hoped that other Grand Slams will follow the Australian Open. The broader the sports is getting its recognition, the better it is for the people who play it. It can be hard for blind people to find a sport they can play. To make its debut on a worldwide sport would definitely give other blind peoples the confidence to go out and play Soundball. It might be the start for other sports to follow as well and get blind people more chances to play sport.