A 19-year-old Estonian blind tennis player currently ranks with the top six players in the world but her dream is to be within the top three.
"2022 European Junior Gold, last year I came second among the top 12 players in Europe. The most surprising tournament this year was in Liepaja, Latvia, where I managed to beat the first woman in the world points table in the semi-finals and then the fourth woman in the points table in the final," said Tiia Innos who is in 12th grade at Tartu Emajõe School.
Explaining how she started playing tennis, she said: "In grade 1, my PE teacher showed me this game, I started trying it and somehow it went from there to where I am today. I train six days a week. Some days of the week I even have two training sessions. It's still a pretty tight schedule and requires a lot of discipline."
Visually Impaired tennis, also known as VI tennis, Sound tennis, or Blind tennis, is played on a smaller court with a lower net. Players use an audible tennis ball that makes noise so they can hear it bounce and be hit. Some courts also have tactile lines so players can touch them.
When she trains, Tiia stands alone at the table and tries to hone her shots to perfection. "There is not much else," she said. "It's a loud ball because the game is played by sound. You have to listen to where the ball is going."
Tiia is congenitally visually impaired. "My doctor has told me that it's the kind of disease that generally gets worse and probably doesn't get better. I'm used to the vision I have, but often when I'm out and about, doing things and in unfamiliar surroundings, I still get the feeling that there could be more vision."
The teenager loves language and literature and has also compiled a collection of poems. Tiia will graduate from high school in the spring, she plans to continue with sports.
"My main goal would be to get into the sports department of the University of Tartu," she said. "However, there is also a possibility that I will apply to become a physiotherapist at Tartu Healthcare College. At some point, I also thought about law. There are a lot of thoughts and over the next few months it will become clear which option I will choose."
Tiia has made an agreement with her coach that she will not put down her tennis racket until she is among the top three in the world: "At the moment, I'm in the top six in the world, so there's exactly half way to go."
Editor: Annika Remmel, Helen Wright
Source: "Ringvaade", interviewed Heleri All