SMASHINGLY SUC­CESS­FUL

The Times-Tribune - - LOCAL - BY CLAY­TON OVER Staff Writer

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.

Jake DANNA Stevens / Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Luke In­del­i­cato, 15, plays ten­nis Satur­day dur­ing In­di­vid­ual Abil­i­ties in Mo­tion’s wheel­chair ten­nis clinic at the Univer­sity of Scran­ton’s By­ron Cen­ter.

Jake DANNA Stevens / Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Scott Wil­son of Dick­son City re­turns a shot as he plays with Natalie Smirne of Avoca.

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

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.

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