Devon

Tennis player Luz Esperanza Merry on track for stardom

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Media captionTwelve-year-old wheelchair tennis player Luz Esperanza Merry, from Plymouth in Devon, has become the top under-18 player in England after just nine months in the sport

A 12-year-old wheelchair tennis player has become the top under-18 player in England after just nine months in the sport.

Luz Esperanza Merry, from Plymouth in Devon, is ninth in the world junior rankings and now she is one of Team GB's hopes for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Esperanza, from Plymouth in Devon, was a rising star of able-bodied players.

However, after experiencing septic arthritis in her hip she had to switch to wheelchair tennis.

Esperanza had won 45 tournaments at home and abroad before her 11th birthday when in November 2011 she was diagnosed with an infection in her right hip, which has led to septic arthritis.

'Hardest thing'

After coming across British number one Lucy Shuker training at Taunton Tennis Centre, Esperanza's parents asked about wheelchair tennis coaching and she is now coached by Lucy's coach, Natalie Ayton.

She travels from her Plymouth home to Taunton for coaching.

It has not been an easy transition from able-bodied to wheelchair tennis.

"The technique is almost the same, but I used to have a double-handed backhand and now I have a single-handed backhand," Esperanza said.

"The hardest thing for me was the new backhand and the mobility."

She made her wheelchair tennis tournament debut in May at the 2013 BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Turkey, winning gold as part of the junior team.

The sport's grand slam tournaments only take the top eight wheelchair tennis players worldwide and Esperanza intends to be one of them in a few years.

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