KUALA LUMPUR: In the course of 10 years, wheelchair tennis player Abu Samah Borhan has accomplished many things.
He survived a motorcycle accident, adjusted to a spinal cord injury and a new life in a wheelchair, while picking up the sport of wheelchair tennis.
The 32-year-old has gone on to accomplish many significant firsts for Malaysia. He played in last year’s Paralympic Games in Rio, and also won a Futures event in Sri Lanka in February.
The player is the highest ranked Malaysian in men’s wheelchair singles at World No 45.
Abu Samah will lead a five-man team in wheelchair tennis at the Asean Para Games.
Wheelchair tennis, which offers three gold medals (men’s singles, doubles and Quad singles), will be held at National Tennis Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 18-21.
Head coach Nadir Ashraf said Abu Samah took up wheelchair tennis from scratch after a motorcycle accident.
“Abu Samah was encouraged by his wife, Norisah Bahrom, who is also a wheelchair tennis player, to take up the sport. He has been under my wing since 2007,” said Nadir yesterday.
“He has achieved so much as a wheelchair tennis player. He currently plays in the ITF Super Series Tour, which is just below the Grand Slam level.”
Abu Samah will play singles and doubles in the Asean Para Games. Others in the team are Yusshazwan Yusoff (singles and doubles), Firdaus Ibrahim (singles and doubles), Ariffahmi Zaquan Ariffin (singles and doubles) and Azman Hasan (Quad singles).
Nadir, who is able-bodied and a former national player, uses a unique method to coach his players.
“When I started coaching about a decade ago, I had very limited knowledge of wheelchair tennis. The exciting challenge for me was to learn as fast as I could.
“If you want to coach a wheelchair player, you need to be in a wheelchair to get a feel of things.
“It is easier for me to use this method as it gives me ideas on how to drill players.
“The rules of the game (with the exception of the two bounce rule), the tactics and techniques as well as the physical and mental preparations are similar to able bodied tennis.
“Being able to move a wheelchair around the tennis court in the most efficient way mirrors the footwork an able bodied player needs to master in order to maximize his game,” he said.
However, wheelchair tennis, which is regarded as the toughest para-sport, has become more competitive as players are now hitting the ball after just one bounce.
“The game has become faster and I am currently, drilling my players on ways to hit the ball after one bounce,” Nadir added.
The women’s event in the Asean Para Games was cancelled due to lack of participation.
Apart from Malaysia, the other participating teams are Thailand and Vietnam, while Indonesia and Singapore withdrew.