Blog: “Tennis just seemed to be the perfect fit for me”

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) website features a blog post every Friday through the year. In 2017, we'll be sharing the experiences of disabled people, and those who support disabled people, on their journey to being more active. This week, with the 23rd Summer Deaflympics underway, GB deaf tennis player Jack, talks about his passion for tennis and ambitions for the Games.

Jack Clifton, deaf tennis player training on court

My name is Jack Clifton, I am 21 years old and I play tennis for Great Britain deaf tennis team. I am currently ranked 24th in the world singles rankings, and 20th in the men’s doubles rankings.

I started playing tennis at the age of five, after having an operation for my cochlea implant and doctors advising me not to play contact sports. We lived close by to a tennis club and it seemed like the perfect sport to try out! I started getting involved in deaf tennis at 11 years old, after my mum saw an article on another deaf tennis player in a magazine.

Tennis just seemed to be the perfect fit for me. It is a very sociable sport. It only takes two to play, but I soon found a great group of friends to play with at my local club. I was very fortunate to have great coaches, who were aware of my disability and made sure that I understood all the drills and coaching tips. When I found out that such a thing called deaf tennis existed, I started to attend junior training camps and met other deaf players. My passion for tennis grew from there.

Tennis is an extremely physical and tactical sport, and I love that combination. There are so different scenarios that can occur in a tennis match. The main thing I enjoy is competing. It gives me such a rush when I face an opponent, and the winning feeling is something I love.

I was first selected to play for Great Britain in 2011, when I was 15 years old. It was for the deaf version of the Davis and Federations Cup which took place in Izmir, Turkey. I remember being told that I had been selected, and it was one of my happiest moments! I never imagined being selected at that age, so it came as a bit of a surprise.

Since then, I have worked extremely hard each year to ensure I was selected again, and I am now going into my seventh consecutive year competing for Great Britain. Earlier this year, I was selected to represent Great Britain at the 23rd Summer Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey this summer (18-30 July).

Training for the Deaflympics has gone really well. I’ve trained hard both on and off the court, in order to give me the best possible chance against some of the world’s best deaf tennis players. I’m excited to put on my GB shirt, get out there and show what I can do. I am also looking forward to supporting my GB team-mates in other sports and cheering them on!

I'm the kind of person that doesn't really set strict goals. I just try to focus on the task at hand, take it one point at a time, trust the process and hopefully I'll be rewarded as a result. However, I can't deny that a GB medal in the doubles with my partner Lewis Fletcher has been on our minds!

Although tennis is an individual sport, support from friends, family and team-mates can go a long way to furthering your success. Without the support of my family and friends during both competitions and training phases, I wouldn’t be the player that I am today.

This year’s Deaflympics are extra special for me because my younger brother Toby will also be competing for Great Britain. He was also selected for the GB tennis squad, I am looking forward to supporting him through the tournament.

To other deaf and disabled people thinking about being more active, I say go for it! The experiences I have gained through sport and exercise have not only kept me fit and healthy, they have also made me into a more rounded person. It has given me confidence to meet new people, the opportunity to travel to new places, and provided me with key skills needed for everyday life.

If you’re interested in tennis, I highly recommend getting in touch with the Tennis Foundation, they have opportunities for ages and abilities. Visit the Tennis Foundation website for more information and contact details.

The 23rd Deaflympics are taking place right now in Turkey - find out how Jack and the rest of the GB team faired at deaflympics2017.org. Show your support for DeaflympicsGB squad on social media, follow @DeaflympicGB on Twitter and use #DeaflympicsGB.