Teamwork drives local wheelchair tennis competitors

Sports

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Brian Davis and Chris Kelley have more in common than either ever thought.

“During the match, we do a lot of game (strategy),” Davis said. “What are we going to do?  (Should we) change this or change that?”

The two are doubles partners and have hopes of winning a title at this weekend’s Midwest Wheelchair Tennis Championships hosted by Mary Free Bed.

“The only difference that we have,” Kelley said. “We get to two bounces instead of one.”

“I’ve been playing for 10 years and I’m still learning stuff every single day,” Davis said.

A photo of Brian Davis. (July 11, 2019)
A photo of Brian Davis. (July 11, 2019)

Davis is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. The 33-year-old started playing tennis after he completely severed his spine in a motorcycle accident.  

“I think about it a lot, where I would be without tennis,” Davis said. “I’m happy to be here and not six feet under where I could have been.”

Kelley was born with a genetic mutation that causes brittle bone disease. It affects his lower body much more than his upper.  

“The lamest way I’ve broken my leg,” Kelley laughed. “I was just walking down the stairs.  I stepped on it wrong and the leg broke.”

During his 23 years of life, he’s broken 16 bones and had nine surgeries. 

Kelley is going through the longest stretch of his life without having broken a bone. Tennis is helping his body in a big way.

A photo of Chris Kelley practicing tennis. (July 11, 2019)
A photo of Chris Kelley practicing tennis. (July 11, 2019)

“When I’m swinging the racket and when I come in contact with the ball,” Kelley said. “The vibration and just the pushing, it’s a very low impact way for me to build muscle.”

He’s also built quite a resume. Kelley is a member of the United States Development Team.  

“I like to win. I like to compete,” Kelley said. “To be able to travel the world and around the nation to compete at tournaments has been unreal.”

Davis isn’t too far behind. Both have dreams of winning more national tournaments, something they plan to keep in common. 

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