His opponents and teammates have two legs, but Peter Mai has two wheels and gets two bounces.
The wheelchair-tennis player says he usually “plays with guys two feet taller” because there aren’t many players in chairs, outside of tournaments.
But his opponents in this friendly game of doubles in Stanwood insist it’s advantage Mai.
Art Derby says, “Peter’s so close to the court, if you hit it short he takes it cross court with vicious angles.”
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In this afternoon’s pickup game, there’s no cursing, no trash talking.
There’s plenty of “ahh, no!” “oh, nuts!” and “shoot!” as Mai lets his racket do the talking.
Mai, 59, has a top-of-the-line titanium athlete’s chair, courtesy of a fundraiser led by Gary Reid at Resilience Fitness in Stanwood.
He drives the chair with his left hand while powering the ball with his right.
Before that he had a heavy, makeshift chair that stood out at competitions for its awkwardness.
Mai lost both legs in a truck accident in 2001.
After almost two weeks in a coma, he awoke to discover his extensive injuries.
“I’m not going to stay like this,” he said.
After six months in a hospital, he decided he was lucky to be alive.
An occasional tennis player before the accident, he decided the sport would give him more than something to do. It would help with fitness, and he found it “the best medicine.”
Reid says, “Peter’s a wall, a ball machine.”
Mai launches a lob that just catches the baseline.
“Lucky shot,” he says, with a slight smile.
Alan Berner: 206-464-8133 or firstname.lastname@example.org