In three short years as an active Wheelchair Tennis player, 15-year-old Chris Herman has developed a game that has him quickly rising in the ranks of the best juniors in the world.
As Herman reaches adulthood, he could very well become America’s best wheelchair player.
USTA National Manager and Head Coach of Wheelchair Tennis Dan James has worked with every great American player since the advent of USTA Wheelchair Tennis, and has had a large hand in mentoring Herman during his rise to international competition. In Herman, he sees a can’t-miss prospect with a strong chance at making a medal run in the Paralympic Games one day.
"Chris Herman has transitioned from a junior with talent to a leader, accomplished player, and the future of American Wheelchair Tennis," said James. "With unlimited potential we are all excited to see what Chris does in the near future."
The Gulfport, Fla., native was 10 years old when a car accident injured his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the waist down. With a desire to remain active, Herman tried several other sports – such as track, basketball and hockey – before finding "the sport that really clicked," tennis, in 2010.
Since that time, Herman and his blistering cross-court forehand have served the United States well. Competing in recent World Team Cup events, Wheelchair Tennis’ equivalent to Davis and Fed Cup competition, Herman has led Team USA to a surprise second-place finish in 2012, and in 2013, he won five matches including a three-set triumph over Spain’s Felix Garcia Perez, currently No. 8 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world junior wheelchair rankings.
"To travel the world to play tennis has become a dream come true," said Herman, who has had his passport stamped in locales such as France, South Korea and Turkey en route to top international events.
Now No. 12 in the world, Herman has also been dominant in recent ITF Series events. He won three matches without dropping a set at both the 2013 Cajun Classic in Baton Rouge, La., and the 2012 PTR Championships in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Also, last summer he earned first place in the singles competition at the Cruyff Foundation Junior Camp in Mission Viejo, Calif., primarily competing against his American peers.
In the future, if James’ belief hold true, Herman will be measuring himself primarily against international competition, looking to etch his name alongside wheelchair legends like Brad Parks, Randy Snow and Stephen Welch as one of the best American players in the history of the sport.
That journey, Herman, hopes, will begin at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, when he would be an 18-year-old men’s team player.
But before Brazil, there’s still a lot of tennis to play and many experiences to be had.
"To be able to meet all the new people that play this sport at the professional level and make all these new friends," said Herman, "again, it’s a dream come true."