Youngster sets her sights on Rio
Originally published on: 05/06/13 00:00
A talented junior tennis player, the 12-year-old from Plymouth was confined to crutches and a wheelchair after contracting an infection in her right hip which was complicated by septicemia late last year.
After three operations in the USA, Merry started playing wheelchair tennis and after rapid progress has been selected as part of the Great Britain junior team for the BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Turkey.
Before joining the team in Turkey, Merry trained with former British No.1 Tim Henman, who was struck by her determination to succeed.
“Esperanza is an inspiration, I’ve obviously heard her story and the issues that she has had to face but when you see her come out on court and see her enthusiasm and spirit, but also her determination, it is incredible,” Henman said.
“Not forgetting her talent – she is a fantastic player. Even though she is getting used to her chair, she’s got great shots, she’s got great timing and I’m sure we are going to see a lot more of her in the future.”
Having trained at FC** Tennis Academy at Dukes Meadows before her illness, Merry was grateful to receive funding from the club, who contributed alongside the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust and the Lord’s Taverners to build a customised sports wheelchair for her.
“When I kept hearing how difficult the Merry family were finding it to try and get funds for a wheelchair, I thought it was ridiculous; when I explained the situation at Dukes Meadows the decision was made in a heartbeat to help them in any way we could, so that’s what we’ve been doing,” said James Lenton, Dukes FC** Tennis Academy director.
“I think she is so inspirational to our kids at the FC** Tennis Academy – to be tackling the challenges she’s had at 12-years-old and be dealing with it in the positive way she has, that’s a lesson for anyone! What a great role model.”