Elland’s 15-year-old deaf tennis star Phoebe Suthers aims to add to her collection of international medals this week when she contests the Slovenia Deaf Open in Portoroz.
The tournament sees Phoebe return to a venue where she secured a triple medal haul at the inaugural European Junior Deaf Tennis Championships in 2016.
After taking up tennis at the age of eight Suthers discovered the deaf element of the sport in 2013 after her mum had seen an advert for deaf tennis. She attended a camp organised by the Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity and the same year she contested her first National Deaf Tennis Championships.
“I don’t know where to start with the difference tennis has made to my life. I’ve made some amazing friends, both hearing and deaf. Tennis allows me to keep fit while doing something I enjoy and I’ve also learnt so many skills around discipline, professionalism and about life and sport in general,” said Suthers, who was born deaf.
Aged just 12, joined the Tennis Foundation’s Deaf Tennis Performance Programme in 2015 and that same year she made her Great Britain team debut at the 1st World Deaf Tennis Championships in Nottingham, where she won the Under 18 girls’ singles bronze medal. A year later she returned from the European Championships with silver medals in girls’ singles and doubles events and her first international gold medal after partnering fellow Brit Esah Hayat to win the Under 18 mixed doubles.
“I’m really excited about my return to Slovenia for the deaf tennis open. I’ve got some really good memories of Portoroz and enjoy playing on clay. I’ve had a couple of injuries before other competitions, but this time I’m fully fit. I feel really settled with my game right now so I’m really looking forward to the tournament,” said the Brooksbank School pupil ahead of travelling to the two-day event with Catherine Fletcher, the Tennis Foundation’s National Deaf Tennis Coach.
While the international deaf tennis calendar continues to evolve, Suthers continues make impressive strides in competition against her hearing peers and tennis ensures she has a busy schedule alongside monthly National Deaf Tennis Squad training.
“I just love competing and to play for GB at World and European level and win medals in Nottingham and Slovenia was something very special that I will never forget. I was also part of the Yorkshire Under 14s County Cup winning team in hearing tennis. Given the strength of the county this was brilliant to be part of and to win matches at that level. I’ve also got numerous titles at Grade 3 standard in junior and ladies’ hearing events and I’m now winning matches in Grade 2,” added Suthers, whose ambitions including becoming Deaflympics and World champion in deaf tennis and winning a Grade 2 event in hearing tennis.
“I’m very focused on enjoying my tennis and doing the best I can. I get wonderful support at Huddersfield from my coach Matt Smith, hitting partner Craig and Rebecca Lee, who gave me my first lessons.”
With this week’s Slovenia Open coinciding with Deaf Awareness Week, Suthers has some solid advice for other young players and anyone who is deaf or who has a hearing impairment and has yet to try tennis.
“Give tennis a go, there’s no harm in trying and I’m sure you’ll find all the things I’ve found that are great about the sport. Get involved and meet people. I’ve got to visit places I wouldn’t otherwise have been to. All the support is there for you through the Tennis Foundation and Cathy Fletcher is great. I met her at my very first deaf tennis weekend, she’s deaf and she’s been there and done it, so what more could you ask for. It’s great to be going to Slovenia with her.”