Four players on the Tennis Foundation’s Deaf Tennis Performance Programme have been selected to represent DeaflympicsGB at the 23rd Summer Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey, from 18 - 30 July 2017. Tennis events will take place at Samsum Tennis Club from 19 - 28 July.
The players will be accompanied by the Tennis Foundation’s National Deaf Tennis Coach and former Deaflympics gold medallist Catherine Fletcher, as part of the wider DeaflympicsGB delegation of 63 athletes representing DeaflympicsGB across 5 different sports
The Great Britain team is comprised of four players, who will contest men’s singles and doubles events:
Jack Clifton (21 – Purley, Surrey)
Toby Clifton (15 – Purley, Surrey)
Lewis Fletcher (31 – Burderop, Wiltshire)
Esah Hayat (15 - Finchley, London)
Catherine Fletcher - National Coach and Tennis Team Manager
Andy Graham – Sports Therapist
Nicholas Ansell – Welfare Officer
Lewis Fletcher will contest his third Deaflympics after reaching the bronze medal play-off in the men’s doubles in Taipei in 2009 and the mixed doubles bronze medal play-off in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2013. Jack Clifton will contest his second Deaflympics after making his debut in the event in Sofia in 2013
Toby Clifton and Esah Hayat will both make their Deaflympics debuts in Samsun this year.
“We’ve got a great mixture of youth and experience in the Great Britain tennis team for these Deaflympics, with all four players having enjoyed medal success in the last two years at either the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championships or last year’s European Championships,” said five-time Deaflympian and two-time Deaflympic medallist Catherine Fletcher.
“The Deaflympics is the pinnacle for our elite deaf athletes and having made my international debut at the age of 12 and played in the first of five Deaflympics 20 years ago this year, I’m sure it’s going to be an especially inspiring experience for Esah and Toby as they make their Deaflympics debuts.
“We hope the selected GB players will inspire the next generation to pick up a racket and increase the number of deaf tennis players across the country playing for fun or feeding into the Tennis Foundation’s deaf tennis pathway to nurture even more future talents.”
The Tennis Foundation works to open up tennis to its priority audiences of disabled people, young people in education and people in lower socio-economic communities, making it possible for them to enjoy the many health and social benefits of the sport whilst maximising their personal potential.
As part of its disability work, the Tennis Foundation oversees a Deaf Tennis Performance Programme and organises ‘Have Go Days’ and Talent ID Camps to help players develop their skills.
To assist players who would like to progress from playing for fun to competing at the highest level as a deaf tennis player, the Tennis Foundation has produced the Game On guide to advise on the different pathways that can be followed to reach the summit of the sport.
To find out more about the work of the Tennis Foundation visit www.tennisfoundation.org.uk.
PLAYER PROFILES: 23rd Summer Deaflympics, Samsun, Turkey
Age: 21 Trains: Virgin Active Surrey Health & Racquets Club Lives: Purley, Surrey R/L: Right-handed
Major achievement: 2016 European Deaf Tennis Championships men’s doubles bronze medallist and 2012 European Deaf Tennis Championships Under 18 boys’ singles silver medallist.
Jack’s Story: Jack started playing deaf tennis in 2007 after attending a Tennis Foundation deaf tennis training session. He joined the Deaf Tennis Performance Programme in 2012 and has gone on to represent Great Britain in numerous international Deaf tennis events including the Dresse Cup, Deaflympics, European Championships and World Championships. In August 2015, Jack became the first Great Britain deaf tennis player to begin a college tennis scholarship in the USA. Jack has recently gained a minor in sports marketing. Jack has inspired his younger brother Toby to compete in Deaf Tennis. He is also a keen footballer and supports Crystal Palace FC.
Quotes: “It fills me with great pride and satisfaction that I will again be representing Great Britain at the Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey. My first Deaflympics in Sofia in 2013 was a great experience and a huge learning curve and eye-opener for me at the age of 17.
“I am looking forward to being a part of DeaflympicsGB, and feel in great shape and form going into the Games. We have all worked extremely hard and the training camps led by Catherine Fletcher have been excellent towards helping me prepare. I feel confident that I am able to put in a good performance at the upcoming Games. Furthermore, I am excited to play doubles with Lewis Fletcher, who has a wealth of experience and I’m look forward to competing alongside him. I would like to express my gratitude to the Tennis Foundation, who have been extremely influential towards improving my tennis and providing me with the opportunities I have had to be able to train as much as I can and represent my country at international level.”
Age: 15 Trains: Virgin Active Surrey Health & Racquets Club Lives: Purley, Surrey R/L: Right-handed
Major achievement: Boys’ doubles silver medallist partnering Esah Hayat at the 2016 European Deaf Tennis Championships in Portoroz, Slovenia.
Toby’s Story: Toby was inspired to start playing deaf tennis by his brother Jack. Toby joined the Deaf Tennis Programme in 2015. He first represented Great Britain at the Deaf Youth Cup in Hamburg in 2014 and has since represented his country at the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championships in Nottingham in 2015 and the European Deaf Tennis Championships in Slovenia in 2016.
Quote: “I am very happy to have been selected for my first Deaflympics. It is my fourth time playing for Great Britain, with the Deaflympics being my first senior tournament, so I can't wait to get out there and enjoy the experience.
“I have great memories competing for Great Britain in the past, and always feel very proud every time I step on court to represent my country. I am looking forward to meeting the rest of the Deaflympics GB Team.
“I have been working hard to improve my tennis and give myself the best preparation possible including attending monthly training camps with the National Deaf Tennis Squad led by National Coach Catherine Fletcher and they have really helped me to continue improve.
“My main aim for the Deaflympics in Turkey is to learn as much as I can from the experience, and to enjoy the occasion in order to prepare for the future and hopefully climb up the rankings!”
Age: 31 Trains: Ramsbury Tennis Club Lives: Burderop, Wiltshire R/L: Left-handed
Major achievement: Reaching the men's doubles semis at the Deaflympics in 2009, winning the mixed doubles bronze medal at the European Championships in Koblenz in 2012 and winning the men's doubles bronze medal at a the European Championships in Portoroz in 2016.
Lewis’s Story: Lewis started playing tennis aged 14. As a junior he competed in numerous tournaments around the country including British Tour events. He joined the Tennis Foundation Deaf Tennis Performance Programme in 2001, aged 16. From the age of 17 he opted to play full-time tennis with the PTR academy in London and has gone on on to represent Great Britain in numerous international Deaf tennis events including the Dresse Cup (Davis Cup equivalent), Deaflympics, European Championships and World Championships. Lewis has built a successful coaching career alongside his playing career and he is currently joint head coach at Ramsbury Tennis Club in Wiltshire alongside his wife Catherine, whom he met through deaf tennis.
Quote: “I am delighted to be representing GB at my third Deaflympics. To represent your country is a prestigious honour and to be able to do this playing a game I love is a bonus.
“My aim for Turkey is to get into a medal position for doubles. A key highlight for me that stays in my mind is my win against the second seed at the 2009 Deaflympics. I will also always cherish the match I played with Catherine at her last ever Deaflympics as a player and it was just unfortunate we had to settle for fourth place and missed out on a medal. But it is still an everlasting memory and to share that with her made it more special.”
Age: 15 Club: Westway Sports Centre Lives: Finchley, London R/L: Right-handed
Major achievement: Winning the boys’ singles gold medal at the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championships in Nottingham in 2015, which was only Esah’s second experience of playing internationally.
Esah’s Story: Esah started playing tennis when he was eight years old and first learnt about deaf tennis through the North London Deaf Children’s Society in 2013. He subsequently attended a Tennis Foundation deaf tennis camp at Gosling Tennis Centre. Esah competed in his first National Deaf Championships in 2013, winning the junior event, and he went on to join the Deaf Tennis Performance Programme in 2014. Later that year he made his international debut for Great Britain in the Deaf Youth Cup in Hamburg. Esah has gone on to represent Great Britain at the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championships in Nottingham in 2015 and the 2016 European Deaf Tennis Championships in Portoroz. Esah regularly competes in LTA sanctioned events and his sporting hero is Andy Murray. Esah was named Young Deaf Sports Personality of the Year for 2015/2016.
Quote: “I am very proud to represent GB in the men’s category in the Deaflympics because I have never played in this event before, and I am very excited to be playing it a young age. It will be a new experience, and I hope to take a lot from it and learn more about being a GB athlete.
“When I am in Samsun, I hope to play the best tennis possible, and try my hardest in all my matches so hopefully I can do well in them.
“The biggest thing I learned at the European and World Championships was about how to compete at an international level, and how to stay focused throughout an entire tournament, staying hydrated and eating well. I also saw the high levels of tennis from around the world, which has motivated me to improve even more.”