Prosthetic no barrier to professional ambition

Alex Hunt in action at the Edgar Centre yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Alex Hunt in action at the Edgar Centre yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson.
Promising tennis player Alex Hunt would like to be noticed for his booming forehand.

And his big dream is to become good enough to inspire people. Chances are he has already done that.

The 22-year-old, who is in Dunedin to compete in the Otago Indoor Tennis Open this weekend, was born with part of his left arm missing.

But despite his disability, Hunt has forged an impressive career to date.

He was one of the top junior players in the country and secured a scholarship to Saint Mary’s College of California where he worked his way up to the No1 spot in his final year.

He had a brief playing stint in Germany before returning home to Nelson this year.

He has a few papers left to complete his business degree and has been mucking-in around the family farm while he plans his next move in tennis.

Hunt hopes the tournament in Dunedin will prove useful preparation for his next step on that journey.

He will head across the Tasman and play in some tournaments there before returning to New Zealand for the nationals in December.

His dream is to enter the professional ranks but the bigger picture is about showing people what is possible.

"That is kind of my biggest goal, I would say, in tennis, is to show other people that you can do anything, no matter how you are born. That is definitely my dream: to inspire some people.

"I guess I have to get a bit better before I can do that."

Hunt is not entirely convinced his disability is actually much of disadvantage in his chosen sport.

When asked, he talked himself out of the idea his prosthetic made it a little more challenging to serve when it was windy.

"It is just a little bit of balance and I guess the ball toss a little bit. But the ball toss goes up pretty well with this," he said gesturing towards his prosthetic.

"It is just a little bit harder in the wind. Look, it might not even be any different in the wind. It is mainly just balance and the one-handed backhand."

He has worked hard on his backhand throughout the years. It was a significant disadvantage in the junior ranks but as he has got stronger, his backhand has "definitely caught up a lot".

Going to university in the United States was the making of his tennis. He spent about three hours each day training and the season is hectic, with around 20 ties.

"By the end of it you are carrying a few injuries, especially by the fourth year. It is definitely busy and you get in a lot of good tennis which is awesome.

"Every year you are at college you realise big increases.

"I started at No6 the first year and slowly improved. And by my last year I was playing at No1.

"I had some tough matches up there. I won a few but we were playing in quite a tough league. I did a lot of learning.

"All I want to do with tennis is get as good as I possibly can and not worry about winning and losing so much. It was awesome getting that experience and playing some beasts."

When it comes to the inspirational stakes, Hunt has to share the stage with another 22-year-old from Nelson, Paralympic sprinter Liam Malone.

Malone has collected two golds and a silver at the Rio Games but like Hunt, dabbled in lots of sport growing up.

"We knew each other just through doing sport. He was doing all sorts of things, rugby, cricket all sorts."

Neither men saw a disability, they saw an opportunity.

And that is what Hunt hopes people will take from his pursuit of a professional tennis career.

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