SCRANTON — Sergei Ivanov lay in wait near one of the tennis nets set up inside the Byron Center at the University of Scranton on Saturday and when the opportunity presented itself, he attacked.
A tennis ball floated within his reach as it cleared the net and he deftly picked it from the air with his racket, a volley so sharply struck and expertly
angled it appeared to be out of anyone’s reach. But one of his opponents, Holly Petro, hustled after the ball and answered with a forehand that sailed out of his reach and those of his partners on the court. It was a pure winner, one that elicited cheers of admiration from both sides of the net.
The point was played at a wheelchair tennis clinic, a partnership between the Olyphant-based nonprofit Individual Abilities in Motion, or I AM, the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living and the United States Tennis Association. Players ran through drills to hone their strokes and played points against one another throughout the afternoon.
I AM looks to enrich the lives of people with spinal cord disabilities. Part of meeting that mission is to provide opportunities and exposure to experiences they might enjoy, said Joe Salva of Olyphant, the organization’s president.
“You don’t know what the sport will be like until you get a chance to try it, so we try to encourage people to try new things,” Salva said.
“Just introducing people to the game is good because then they can find a buddy to play with and then it goes on from there,” said Greg Bott, director of development with Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living.
The event attracted about a dozen wheelchair tennis players of various experience and skill levels from around the region Saturday.
Petro, of Hanover Twp., took up wheelchair tennis about two years ago and tries to play as often as possible, usually once a week. The sport provides a good way to get outside, exercise and compete, she said.
It’s the first time she’s attended a clinic like the one Saturday, which provided an opportunity to meet new players, see different play styles and improve, she said.
“Everyone hits the ball differently,” Petro said.
Others, like Ivanov, have been playing for decades. The Ukraine native and now Allentown resident took it up about 25 years ago after attending a demonstration of the game in Moscow, Russia, and ultimately played wheelchair tennis tour events. He’d encourage anyone to play because it provides many avenues for participants, he said. They can develop themselves to play competitive events or just for fun with friends and family. They can play against anyone and for a lifetime, he said.
“I think that’s the beauty of wheelchair tennis,” Ivanov said.
Luke Indelicato, 15, plays tennis Saturday during Individual Abilities in Motion’s wheelchair tennis clinic at the University of Scranton’s Byron Center.
Scott Wilson of Dickson City returns a shot as he plays with Natalie Smirne of Avoca.
Samantha Davenport of Scranton hits a return to a coach Saturday during Individual Abilities in Motion’s wheelchair tennis clinic at the University of Scranton’s Byron Center.