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‘Don’t be frightened and go for every shot!’

Carla Lenarduzzi playing tennis
January 26: Anna McBride (GBR) plays Carla Lenarduzzi (AUS) on Court 8 during the AO PWII Finals at the 2024 Australian Open on Friday, January 26, 2024. Photo by TENNIS AUSTRALIA/ JOSH CHADWICK

Competing against the best players in the world on one of the most iconic tennis courts was a major highlight for a group of Special Olympics tennis players selected to compete at the Players with Intellectual Impairments (PWII) Championship at the recent Australian Open.

Carla Lenarduzzi
Carla Lenarduzzi

Tennis-ace Carla Lenarduzzi was one of five Special Olympics tennis players in action at the second edition of the PWII. The event, for the world’s best players with an intellectual disability, was played at Melbourne Park as part of the Australian Open.

Carla, who has been training and competing with Special Olympics Australia for the past 15 years, had a busy tournament, competing in both the women’s singles and women’s doubles competition with compatriot Kelly Wren.

And while Carla didn’t claim a winner’s medal on this occasion, she did take home a lot of learnings from the major tournament experience.

Carla, no stranger to winning accolades for her tennis talents having been named Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability by Tennis Victoria (Australia) in 2018, said she is still learning and determined to improve parts of her game.

‘Playing here (at the PWII tournament) taught me not to be frightened, to go for every shot, expect the ball to come back and be ready. Don’t give up and be fit for lots of matches,’ she said.

Described by her coaches as a mentor to younger players, Carla says she wants to continue to improve her tennis game and will use the experience at the PWII tournament to work even harder.

‘It was a good experience playing against some of the best players in the world and it makes me want to work hard to be like them. I’ve got something to strive for and, when it comes to tennis, I never stop learning.’

Also included in the line-up of Special Olympics players taking part in the tournament was 23-year-old Lily Mills from Special Olympics Great Britain who was a runner-up in the women’s doubles competition. While Sophia Schmidt from Special Olympics Germany enjoyed victory in the same double’s competition along with her partner, Anna McBride, capping off a fantastic few months for the German during which she won silver in the singles competition at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin.

Special Olympics Australia, meanwhile, was proudly represented by three players at the tournament, including Kelly Wren, Mitchell James and Carla.

And once again, Kelly Wren put in a fantastic display and enjoyed a great run in the women’s singles competition. Having triumphed in the singles competition at the PWII last year, on this occasion Kelly had to settle for runner-up’s. But no doubt fitness fanatic Kelly, who also coaches with Special Olympics Australia, will aim to be back on the famed courts at Melbourne Park next year.

Results Table

Australian Open 2024 PWII Championships

Men's singlesArchie Graham (AUS)Oliver Beadle (GBR)
Women's singlesAnna McBride (GRB)Kelly Wren (AUS)
Men's doublesArchie Graham (AUS) / Joshua Holloway (AUS)Oliver Beadle (GBR) / Aidan Moody (GBR)
Women's doublesAnna McBride (GBR) / Sophie Schmidt (GER)Hanne Lavreysen (BEL) / Lily Mills (GBR)

Special Olympics Australia was also out in force at Tennis Australia’s All Abilities Day, which took place during the Australian Open and showcased different forms of inclusive tennis. While 100 Special Olympics Australia members were provided free tickets to attend the Australian Open courtesy of Tennis Australia, a sporting partner of Special Olympics Australia.

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