Adaptive tennis programs thrive in 2022 National Tennis Month

The able-bodied players were Bear Hunter Lee, who was a Maryland state champion at the age of 12, and reached No. 30 in the Mid-Atlantic region. He played four years of college tennis at Whitman College, where the team reached as high as No. 8 in the national Division III rankings. His opponent was Uros Petronijevic, a 2017 graduate of the University of San Diego, where he was an All-American, ranked Top 16 in the nation, and the USD Athlete of the Year. He then went on to the ATP tour.

The two adaptive players were Richard “Hercules” Herkowitz and Kenneth “Rocket” Rodriguez Gonzalez. Herkowitz was a former professional body builder, who was diagnosed in October 2005 with the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis. After 15 months of treatment, it was decided that his leg would not recover full use, and it was amputated below the knee in December of 2006. Initially, there was some pain with the use of the prosthesis, but gradually this pain became unbearable due to the lack of tissue covering the end of his severed bone. In July 2009, it was decided to amputate the leg above the knee. After joining the TAP tennis league for standing adaptive tennis players, Herkowitz achieved a ranking of No. 23 in the world in 2017, and later reached No. 8 in the world in 2019.

Rodriguez Gonzalez has a sports background in track as a sprinter, and in AA baseball as a catcher and pitcher. On the night of Dec. 24, a helicopter weighing over 21,000 pounds ran over his lower right leg and left thigh twice. Despite multiple surgeries, the only solution to negate the pain was an amputation operation that was performed in February 2021. Later, he was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he began his therapy to recover. Part of this process was to join Adaptive Tennis US and learn a new sport. He began training in December and continues to improve his game.

The event fulfilled the goals of making the public more aware of the capabilities of adaptive players in the game of tennis and how tennis can be a transformative means of healing for those who are of diminished capacity. – Dr. Carl Lee

Adaptive Tennis US was created by Dr. Karl Lee to allow a pathway for healing, both physically and mentally. His philosophy is to adapt as instructors to change the way that tennis is taught to the individual players, so that the players have the best chance to succeed. He utilized his background as a USPTA pro and merged his training as a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist to design a program that will enable the adaptive player to become a tennis player. The players are the inspiration, and whatever the result, they are the definition of success.


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