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History in the Making

January 22, 2004 03:43 PM

Bob Masella, from Columbia, SC, began winning wheelchair titles soon after a tragic automobile accident left him paralyzed from the chest down at the age of 22. While this would be accomplishment enough for many, Bob has never been one to back away from a challenge.

Four short years ago, after “mastering” wheelchair tennis, Bob started participating in the USTA’s USA League Tennis programs. The fact that there were only a handful of wheelchair players in the program nationwide at that time didn’t faze him at all and over the years he has captained teams in both the USA League Tennis and Mixed Doubles programs, even winning the Mixed State Championships in 2000.

This past year Bob added to his already impressive list of accomplishments by first taking his Mixed 5.5 team back to the South Carolina Mixed Championships and then advancing to the Sectional Championship, held in Chattanooga, TN.

While his team did not perform well in their previous Sectional appearance, 2003 seemed to be a year of destiny. His team tore through the field and defeated a team from Russellville, AR in the finals, capturing a spot in the Mixed Regional Championships in Pensacola, FL. The win was a historic one as it marked the first time in history that a wheelchair player advanced past a Sectional championship in the USA League Tennis program.

While the team fell short in the Regional Championships, Bob’s accomplishments were impressive.

“One of the Caribbean teams was videotaping Bob while he was playing,” shared a teammate. “They couldn’t believe that someone in a wheelchair was successfully competing against able-bodied players.”

Both able-bodied and wheelchair players are hopeful that Bob’s performance will inspire other wheelchair athletes.

“We are confident that the number of wheelchair players competing in able-bodied tournaments and programs over the next five years will continue to increase,” commented Marilyn Sherman, director of adult tennis for the USTA Southern Section.

Bob Masella’s 5.5 team members include: Lauren Aull, Kim Dendillo, Lizzy Fowbel, Joel Leonard, Elizabeth Long, Jim McMahan, Tracey Reddic, Donald Sorenson, and Clint Wactor.




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