What is visually impaired Tennis?
Visually impaired tennis is one of the fastest-growing VI sports in the UK with more and more opportunities for people who are blind or partially sighted to get involved. Players are classified according to their visual ability, ranging from B1 (totally blind) to B5. The visually impaired version of tennis is similar to mainstream tennis with only a few adaptations. Just like standard tennis, you can play singles or doubles.
How do I play visually impaired tennis?
The ball is larger than a regular tennis ball and with ball bearings in the centre, which make a sound as the ball bounces on the ground. The game can be played on a smaller court using shorter rackets and a lower net. B1 courts, which is the category for those with the lowest level of sight, also have tactile lines. Depending on a player’s category they may have up to three bounces of the ball before they return it to their opponent. Sighted players can play against visually impaired players, but they’re allowed only one bounce and no volleying.
VI tennis uses a larger tennis ball, sometimes called a sound ball, which rattles during play so players can locate it. Balls can be either black or fluorescent yellow to give maximum contrast with the colour of the sports hall and aid those with some useful sight. A lower net and shorter tennis rackets are also used. Balls can be purchased from RNIB's website. Link: https://shop.rnib.org.uk/blind-tennis-balls-89760
Pathways and Competition
VI tennis is open to players of all ages, experience, fitness levels and abilities who have a visual impairment.
The LTA run competitions throughout the year across the UK. The competitions calendar can be found here: https://www.lta.org.uk/compete/inclusion-disability/competition-calendar/.
VI tennis aspires to become a Paralympic sport, as it is currently played in over 30 countries across the world. Currently, the highest level of competition is the International Blind Tennis Championships, where players represent Great Britain.
In VI tennis players compete in different categories, with the B1 category having the greatest degree of sight loss.
B1 – No sight, players are allowed three bounces of the ball and nets are lowered.
B2 – Partial sight and players are allowed three bounces of the ball.
B3 – Partial sight and players are allowed two bounces of the ball.
B4 and B5 – Partial sight and are allowed one bounce of the ball.
To complete in national tournaments or competitions, players must have a valid sight classification from British Blind Sport. For international competitions, players must have an International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) classification.
For more information on national classifications please visit the British Blind Sport classification page: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/educationandresearch/classifications/.
For information on international classification please visit the IBSA classification webpage: https://ibsasport.org/fair-sport/classification/overview/.
This tennis resource, developed by the Tennis Federation now know under the LTA, helps players, coaches and tournament organisers support people with a visual impairment within tennis sessions and activities. The extensive resource provides recommendations from making tennis sessions accessible to the rules of VI tennis and understanding sight classifications. The resource also provides information on organisations who support the sport further.
For more information please visit: https://www.lta.org.uk/play/inclusion-disability/visually-impaired-tennis/
Competitions calendar: https://www.lta.org.uk/compete/inclusion-disability/competition-calendar/
Find a Court: https://www.lta.org.uk/play/find-a-tennis-court/
BBS Activity Finder: https://britishblindsport.org.uk/activity-finder/