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I Support Tennis: Barrett Blogs from French Wheelchair Events

June 19, 2009 07:00 AM
By becoming a yearly member of USTA Florida, as a player or a general supporter, 90% of your membership dollars go directly into the Florida tennis community to support programs and individuals across the state. This is another in the ongoing "I Support Tennis" campaign highlighting Florida membership dollars at work.

BRITTANY BARRETT, the 17-year-old who first picked up a racquet 1-1/2 years ago when confined to a wheelchair by an undiagnosed ailment, is continuing her rapid progress up the U.S., and now the international wheelchair tennis rankings.

Barrett's remarkable rise continues this month when the Spring Hill, Fla., resident takes to the courts in France, funded in part from a grant by USTA Florida. In late June she will compete at the French Open and the Open Sarreguemines 2009 in France.

Fans can follow her results and exploits in her blog at www.wheelchairtennis.sports.officelive.com.

"I am so happy," Barrett wrote in her first blog from France. "I played my first ever Open match today and won my first open match today. This is so exciting since it is also my 2yr anniversary of my "accident". What a day. My mother has graphed my playing so we know what to work on. I am sorry if there are typos as I am typing on a French computer and they are completely different...The food here is good and the people are friendly. A group of children came to the courts today to watch everyone play and they saw Nico my friend and he signed about 40 tennis balls for the kids and I got pictures."

USTA Florida Director of Community Tennis Linda Curtis has tracked Barrett's progress since shortly after she picked up a racquet and became an inspiration for other disabled youth in South Florida.

"USTA Florida is proud to support Brittany's journey as she continues her quest to play in the 2012 Paralympics," Curtis said. "She has faced tremendous challenges in the last two years and it is heartwarming to know that tennis has helped her so much on her road to recovery.  Her experience on the tennis court has given her a tenacity that serves her well on the court and in life. We are certain that she will represent USTA Florida well."

Encouraged to participate internationally by coaches and national/international wheelchair tennis organizations, the 17-year-old now has a long-term goal of representing the U.S. at the 2012 Paralympics in England.

"These are her first international events -- in fact, this is her first time outside the U.S.," said her mother and coach, Michelle Barrett. "She played the Florida Open and the Pensacola Open in April and she did very well, she got a first place and a semifinal, and everyone was telling her that she could do international tournaments. We started going through connections and seeing how much money we could raise to do the French tour."

The 17-year-old turned heads at the Pensacola Open when, with no women's wheelchair doubles event, she entered and won the Men's C division title.

Rising to a ranking of No. 4 in the national girls juniors, she is also No. 9 in the Girls Jr. Division internationally. She also serves locally as the Diversity Council chairperson for the Nature Coast Tennis Foundation, an official USTA Florida Community Tennis Association (CTA).

It has been a surprisingly short journey from being laid-up for months after losing the use of her legs, receiving her first introduction to tennis, and now competing on some of the biggest stages in wheelchair tennis.

"Our coach saw Brittany and she was just coming off of being bedridden, and the coaches said, 'You know when you're feeling better we're going to get you out here too,'" said Michelle Barrett. "She said, 'No, I can't play tennis, I'm in a wheelchair," and they said, 'OK, well, go look it up online, and we'll show you some people who can play wheelchair tennis.' So within a couple weeks they had her out there, and I thought it would be something to just get her out of the house, I never expected her to take it this far. She has such a passion for it, it's unbelievable."

On her goal schedule later this year is the US Open wheelchair event, and next year the 2010 World Team Cup, the first qualifying step to her dream of competing in England at the 2012 Paralympics.

"I need financial sponsorships to help cover my expenses, and am so grateful to USTA Florida," Barrett said. "I hope that my opportunities and successes can be encouragement to other young athletes with disabilities." 

Follow Barrett's results and experiences in France this month through her blog at www.wheelchairtennis.sports.officelive.com.

"I Support Tennis" is USTA Florida's look at membership dollars at work. To renew your membership and support Brittany and other tennis organizations and individuals in Florida (and receive numerous other benefits as a USTA member), go to www.usta.com/membership for more information.





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