Uckfield man Chris Baily has become a national tennis champion and is set to represent the UK in an international tournament.
He won his title in the National Visually Impaired Championships after two years as runner up. This year he also won the doubles title for the third time.
And now he is hoping to represent his country in an international tournament competing with players from Japan, Argentina and Australia as well as from Europe.
Chris, 39, said: “That is something I still can’t get my head round. I am a reasonable club player, good enough to play matches against other clubs, but not stretching anyone that good, yet next year I could be representing my country. I’m very excited about that prospect.”
Chris, has a condition which means his eyesight is gradually deteriorating but he is making the most of the sight he still has.
He has enjoyed playing tennis for the past 20 years and still plays for his club at Maresfield but two years ago he heard about about visually impaired tennis – played with a spongy ball which is silent when travelling through the air but which jangles when hit or bouncing on the ground.
He travelled to London to learn more, got hooked on the game and also achieved a Level One coaching qualification.
Now he plays in Brighton. Indeed yesterday he played for his Maresfield club in the morning before heading off to Brighton to play visually impaired tennis in the afternoon.
He copes with playing ‘normal’ tennis as long as he keeps his eye on the ball, but as soon as it goes out of his tunnelled field of vision he says he has no hope of spotting it again.
It was Chris’s night vision that deteriorated first and he only realised, when friends asked what he was doing as they saw him gingerly feeling for steps with his foot before climbing them, that they could still see the steps quite well in the dark while he couldn’t.
After he married, Chris’s wife Frances encouraged him to have the problem checked out and when one of his children was 21-months-old and the other 12 days old he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa.
Now son Andrew is seven and Peter is six and Chris’s eyesight is continuing to deteriorate. He is no longer able to drive and is registered blind.
He changed his job as a research and development scientist from one in East Grinstead which was difficult to reach independently, to a similar one in Crowborough which he is able to reach by train.
Chris has always enjoyed a challenge and in May 2014 joined a trek across the Sahara desert to raise funds for the charity RP Fighting Blindness which provides information and support for people affected by Retinitis Pigmentosa. Read about that adventure in another Uckfield News story here.
All being well his next adventure will be playing in the international tennis championships for the visually impaired and he can’t wait. “This is blowing my mind a bit but I am definitely up for it,” he said.