Serving up inspiration: Internationally ranked wheelchair tennis tournament continues through Sunday at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College

Saturday, Mar. 11, 2023–11:26 a.m.

-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-

Bringing top-rated international wheelchair tennis tournaments to Rome each year is a labor of love, and no person involved leaves without being inspired.

Niels Vink

The ITF Georgia Open wheelchair tennis continues play through Sunday and has brought most of the best players in the world to play on courts purpose-built for the sport.

One of the sport’s ambassadors, Heath Davidson, an Australian who is ranked third in the world for the quad division, told Rome Rotary Club members Thursday that Rome’s a great place to play tennis, with one caveat: “other than it being cold.”

He’s alongside other international players in the tournament this week who have played in big venue tournaments like the US Open Wheelchair Championships and the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Players come from Japan, The Netherlands, Brazil, Chile and Japan.

Niels Vink of The Netherlands is the top-ranked quad-division player in the world, at 20 years old. He has won five grand slams in doubles and two in singles in his 4-year career. Of that career, he’s played at the Rome Tennis Center for 3 years.

“We have a lot of facilities (in the Netherlands) but nothing as big as this,” Vink said.

Recently Davidson and another player from the U.S. were able to exchange a volley with champion player Novak Djokovic. The tennis champ has gone on the record about being inspired by wheelchair players and he’s not the only one.

Heath Davidson

The skill, spirit, and humility brought to the courts is inspiring year after year, said Ann Hortman the RTC’s tournament director and director of Rome sports tourism.

“For me, it’s a labor of love,” Hortman said. “The people on these courts will just blow you away.”

But funding is always an issue, and to continue bringing tournaments like this one, the tennis center needs local business sponsorships. Those sponsorships do have a community payoff — tennis championships and tournaments bring an economic impact of around $6 million annually for Floyd County.

The facility was built above the Americans with Disabilities Act’s standards, Hortman said and, right now, the ITF Georgia Open wheelchair tennis tournament is the only Level 1 tournament, and one of only three large tournaments, in the U.S.

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at

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