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Wheelchair Star Baron Brings Big Smile, Game To Surprise

October 29, 2011 04:56 PM
Hawaii's Shelby Baron, just 17 years old, has had the chance to travel the globe as one of the world's best wheelchair tennis players.
By Kyle Kuhnel, special to USTA.com

Shelby Baron has traveled the world competing against the best competition tennis has to offer.  It’s her incredible outlook that offers her teammates - and everybody that she comes in contact with - inspiration. 

Baron became the first player ever to compete at the Jr. Team Tennis National Championships in a wheelchair, representing the USTA Hawaii Pacific Division and Kilauea Junior Tennis in the 18 & Under Intermediate Division.

"Maybe when other people see this, hopefully they will want to play tennis," said Baron. "There is track, basketball and other sports for wheelchair players and with any luck this will inspire others to pick up a racket, join a team and play."

In addition to competing in her first Jr. Team Tennis Championship here at Surprise, Baron has logged quite a few frequent flyer miles. Currently No. 7 in the ITF World Wheelchair Girls' Singles rankings, Baron is the highest ranking American. Earlier this year, she traveled to Tshwane, South Africa, where she represented the United States at April’s 2011 World Team Cup, one of the most prestigious wheelchair tournaments in the world.

Prior to South Africa, Baron captured both the singles and doubles titles at the Cajun Tennis Championships in Baton Rouge, La.  In the process, she beat the nation's no. 1 junior player, Ryan Nelson,  7-5 , 6-3 and then paired up with him to take the doubles crown, 6-0, 6-0 in beating fellow Americans Chris Herman and Alex Saporito.

Even though Baron has faced the best players in the world it’s her time spent playing Jr Team Tennis that she enjoys the most.

"Over here, I’m with all of my friends and we have been together for a while," said Baron. "It’s really helpful when they cheer for you, it makes a difference. The atmosphere is totally different (from wheelchair tournaments)."

Baron credits the sport and Jr Team Tennis for helping her keep a fresh perspective and positive outlook on life.

"It makes me feel good because I can compete in the sport I love and still play at a competitive level.  Tennis has changed me and made me more positive. My mindset is more focused on setting goals and accomplishing them."

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