Photo : Dave Holland & Angela Burger
The best wheelchair tennis players in the Americas take to the court this week at the Parapan Am Games in Santiago, Chile, including six Canadians.
National champions Thomas Venos, Natalia Lanucha, and Mitch McIntyre are making the trip down south, along with quads world No. 9 Rob Shaw, who was one of Canada’s flag-bearers at the opening ceremony.
Barry Henderson and Anne-Marie Dolinar, who also won gold at the Birmingham National Championships in doubles with Venos and Lanucha respectively, round out the team.
There are six draws in Santiago with Canadians in each one.
Venos was the first Canadian on court on Sunday and the first winner, claiming a 6-1, 6-1 victory in his opening match over Gerardo Chomba Caja of Chile. He will face American Conner Stroud in the round of sixteen.
This is Venos’ second appearance at the Parapan Am games, having played in Lima, Peru, four years ago.
“I’m a much different player than I was in Lima. I’ve definitely improved a lot,” said the Canadian after his round-one win.
As for dealing with the hot conditions in South America while his home country descends into winter, Venos explained that “I’ve been pretty good with the heat because I was in Alabama for five years. That’s hot and humid. This is a dry heat so it’s not that bad.”
Lanucha also got off to a winning start on Monday, gritting out a tough 6-4, 7-5 win over Valeria Valverde of Costa Rica. She will meet Colombia’s Angelica Bernal in the quarter-finals.
Henderson and Dolinar also played their first-round singles matches on Sunday, but were both defeated.
Shaw and McIntyre are competing in the quad singles and teaming up in the doubles. In the first round, McIntyre faces Edison Molina of Ecuador, while Shaw has a bye to the quarter-finals of the four-round event.
The two Canadians are on opposite sides of the draw and could only meet in the final.
With only five teams in the draw, Shaw and McIntyre start in the quarter-finals of the quad doubles against the American team of Andrew Bogdanov and David Wagner. If they win, they will face the Chilean squad of Francisco Cayulef and Diego Perez in the semifinals.
Lanucha and Dolinar also open against an American pair, Dana Mathewson and Maylee Phelps, for a spot in the semifinals of the three-round event.
In the men’s doubles, Venos and Henderson face Francisco Beltran and Eduardo Lopez Manzano in their first-round match. They would face the American team of Casey Ratzlaff and Stroud in the quarter-finals.
The medals start being handed out on Thursday with the women’s doubles. The rest of the medals will be on the line on Friday and Saturday.