Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

“Ready?” “Yes.” “Play!” Part 1: The Background of Blind Tennis

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

Readers may remember that the 2022 U.S. Open featured an accessible broadcast from Action Audio, which was developed with the assistance and input of the International Blind Tennis Association (IBTA). This is the first in a series of articles covering different aspects of the sport of blind tennis or soundball tennis. This sport was created in Japan in 1984 by Miyoshi Takei, who was blind and desired to play tennis with sighted people. He created the sport with rules that align with standard tennis but for a few modifications detailed here. Blind tennis is often played on a smaller court and uses a different, soft ball with ball bearings or bells inside which makes a sound when it bounces and travels much more slowly than a normal tennis ball. Similar to other blind sports, it uses a sight classification system, with B1 players having the least sight and B4 the most. Players can participate in their own category or a category for better sight, but not for less vision. Categories also make a difference in how many bounces a player is allowed before a point scores for their opponent: B1 players get three bounces, B2 and B3 get two, and B4 players get one. Before serving, the player must ask “Ready?,” wait for the receiver’s “Yes,” and then shout “Play!” before throwing the ball. The IBTA has an executive committee with representatives from 19 countries, with Lolina Fernandez representing the United States. The IBTA also holds a yearly championship with the most recent taking place in Spain. Future articles will examine the state of blind tennis in the U.S.