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Disabled teen asks for tennis to be more inclusive

Kai Ryan standing on a tennis court

A disabled tennis player has asked the International Tennis Foundation (ITF) to introduce a category for people living with dwarfism so they can compete in the Paralympic Games.

Kai Ryan was diagnosed with achondroplasia in his childhood, now aged 17 he plays tennis in a wheelchair but is unable to qualify for standing tennis at a professional level.

"Currently, for people with physical disabilities, there's only wheelchair tennis," his dad Nathan told ABC.

"It hasn't changed since and it's a bit frustrating that all these athletes can't compete."

Ryan has been a runner-up at ITF Junior Futures championships, but despite the success he still faces barriers just because of his disability.

"With my disability, I have to bend over to get the wheel and spin it," he explained to Inside The Games.

"Moving [in the wheelchair] as well - it's confusing and hard."

In November, Ryan suffered a “really big concussion” when he landed head-first onto a concrete surface after falling out of his wheelchair. The injury has spurred the teenager to carry on his campaign to introduce a standing player category in the Paralympics.

He has received support from wheelchair tennis player and 15-time Grand Slam champion Dylan Alcott.

"I loved playing the sport and wanted to be like Dylan [Alcott] but it was challenging - coming from a standing player, learning wheelchair," Ryan said.

"Hopefully the ITF accepts players with physical disabilities who choose to play standing."

A standing category already exists in badminton, Ryan is pushing for a similar game in Tennis Australia in the hope standing tennis will be considered for the Paralympics in the foreseeable future.

It’s not just Alcott who is behind the change, an online petition has already received over 17,000 signatures from people asking for tennis to become a more inclusive sport.

[ Kai Ryan met his hero Roger Federer ten years ago. ]

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