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Secret to success in wheelchair tennis? It's all about bounce

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  • Secret to success in wheelchair tennis? It's all about bounce

    Secret to success in wheelchair tennis? It's all about bounce

    (October 6, 2002, by Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune)

    On Feb. 2, 1989, Drake Garvin was motorcycling on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, watching the waves, when his bike hit a patch of gravel.

    Man and machine fell, slamming into the pavement, a tree, a driveway.

    For days, Garvin floated through dreams where his bike remained upright and his spinal cord intact. On Day 5, he awoke in a hospital room, with a guest.

    It was his brother, in the wheelchair he had used since a 1980 car wreck.

    "Well," Curtis Garvin said, "now I've got a doubles partner."

    The U.S. Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships will start Tuesday and run through next Sunday at the George E. Barnes Family Tennis Center, 4490 W. Point Loma Blvd. Although their doubles-playing days are over, the Garvins will be there. Wouldn't miss it.

    "There was a lot of satisfaction to being out there with him, to be experiencing - well, not merely to be on the tennis court, but to be experiencing life together," Drake said.

    'Different, not over' Drake, 42, now works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for Sharp HealthCare. While the hospital chain is one of the U.S. Open's sponsors, Drake no longer competes.

    Curtis, 40, does, but he'll attend this week's tournament as a guest. From his home in Turlock, he directs wheelchair tennis in Northern California for the U.S. Tennis Association.

    Both men are graduates of Point Loma Nazarene, where Drake won three letters on the tennis team. He surfed, too. Perhaps it was natural that this athlete would take up wheelchair sports.

    And perhaps it was natural that Curtis' brother would adjust to his new wheels with a minimum of fuss.

    "I had seen somebody go to school, get a job, get married - do all the 'normal' things - in a wheelchair," Drake said. "So I knew that life was going to be different, not over."

    Curtis, though, had few role models when his car missed a turn on Old Highway 80 and rolled down a hill. His back was broken in 10 places.

    "I wasn't really an athlete" before the accident, Curtis said. But he developed his mind, earning a bachelor's degree in computer science in 1984, and his body, competing in wheelchair marathons. At the 1983 National Wheelchair Games in Hawaii, he took a break from his track and field events to watch wheelchair tennis.

    Curtis borrowed a racket. The rest is - well, the rest isn't history. The Garvins won several trophies, but neither dominated the sport.

    "I don't know if there was any type of advantage to us being brothers," Drake said.

    Curtis disagreed. "He's a lefty and I'm a right-handed player. That was a nice advantage. And we know each other. A lot of other players on the tour didn't.

    "And it felt good."

    No uplift, please

    While wheelchair sports can be therapeutic, the players at the Barnes Center this week won't be whacking balls for cardiovascular or psychological uplift. They're here to win.

    "The thing I like about wheelchair tennis over wheelchair rugby?" asked Rick Draney, one of the players who brought the U.S. Open to San Diego in 1999. "I get to hit things instead of being hit."

    In that first year, 225 world-class athletes came from from 18 nations. You don't roll onto the court with these men and women unless you are ready to wheel with the Big Dogs.

    Due to careers and moves, the Garvins are no longer a ranked doubles team. But their devotion to tennis - and each other - is not over. It's just different.

  • #2
    I found this by accident.
    I was looking for curts' books.

    they were my brothers in law.

    curt was also founder of the national wheelchair tennis association.