Guy Sasson, a 43-year-old tennis player from Israel, recently shared his poignant experience at the US Open. While household names like Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff commanded Arthur Ashe Stadium, lesser-known yet equally skilled athletes like Diede De Groot, Alfie Hewitt, David Wagner, Niels Vink, and Guy Sasson competed fiercely on Courts 4, 5, and 6.
These determined players competed in the expanded wheelchair tennis events; a facet of the sport unfamiliar to many. Since 2007, wheelchair tennis has been an integral part of all four Grand Slams and the Summer Paralympics, featuring two divisions: open and quads.
The latter is for players using wheelchairs and facing a loss of function in at least one upper limb.
The Journey Of Guy Sasson
Guy Sasson was the only Israeli participant in any main draw category in this year’s US Open. Following recent category reclassification, he competed in the men’s singles and doubles quads divisions.
After a seemingly effortless 55-minute first round and a decisive victory over Tomas Masaryk from Slovakia with scores of 6-1 and 6-2, Sasson shared memories about his journey. Sasson was emotional about the impact of playing on a stage of this magnitude, side by side with tennis luminaries like Djokovic and Medvedev.
He revealed the sociability of sharing locker rooms with these non-disabled players and engaging in casual exchanges with them. This experience, he emphasized, was a testament to the inclusive spirit of the tournament.
Impressed by the tournament’s organization, Sasson underlined the excitement about being regarded as equal among world-class professionals. According to him, the opportunity to showcase his skills alongside non-disabled players in front of a crowd of 50,000 was incredible, even if the audience wasn’t specifically there for them.
Meanwhile, several adversities accompanied Sasson’s journey to this stage. Growing up non-disabled in Ramat Gan, he pursued education before eventually venturing into business. However, a snowboarding incident in France in 2015 altered the course of his life.
Falling off a cliff resulted in a severe spinal injury, and doctors delivered the news that he might never walk again. Determined to keep his promise to his children, Sasson turned to sports for physical activity, initially choosing swimming.
However, it was tennis that forged a deep bond between him and Ofri Lankri, a former professional player from Israel (now a coach). This marked the beginning of Sasson’s journey in wheelchair tennis, a passion he initially kept to himself.
As he improved, he eventually shared this newfound love for the sport with his wife. Lankri, who coached Sasson throughout his US Open matches, praised his progress and admired his dedication to the mental aspects of tennis.
Meanwhile, recent changes in Sasson’s upper body led to his reclassification for the quads wheelchair division. At present, Sasson ranks seventh globally in quads singles and the fortieth in doubles.
Triumph, Trials, And Future Aspirations
The US Open marked a promising start for Sasson, with his children and parents cheering him on from the stands. In doubles, Sasson partnered with Koji Sugeno but lost to Niels Vink and Sam Schroder after three sets.
In singles, Sasson faced the world’s second seed, Schroder from the Netherlands, but fell short, scoring 7-5, 6-2. Upon returning to Houston, where his family currently resides due to his wife’s medical fellowship, Sasson will resume his duties as a real estate professional.
Nevertheless, Sasson eagerly anticipates his participation at the Israel Open between October 9 and 13 later this year. This tournament, which will be held in Ramat Hasharon, is an opportunity for him to showcase his talent before friends, family, and devoted Israeli fans.
Sasson believes his journey will inspire future generations as it demonstrates that even in the face of adversity, triumph is attainable through sheer determination and unwavering spirit.