Tennis fans will have the chance to see the sport in a new light on January 24 when the Australian Open celebrates its inaugural All Abilities Day in Melbourne, with a blind and low vision (BLV) tennis match also taking place on January 23.

During the Australian Open, Blind Tennis champions Courtney Webeck and Mick Leigh will play a blind and low vision match at the National Tennis Centre. Also showcasing the game was singles tennis player and Mastercard ambassador Alicia Molik who took to the court wearing simulation glasses playing with Webeck and Leigh, to simulate the game from the perspective of a person with vision impairment. 

The experience gave Molik a new-found appreciation for blind and low vision tennis and the need for growth in this code “The most challenging part while simulating the lived experiences of a person with a vision impairment was picking up the sound when the ball was in flight. It made me feel I was incapable of a skill that ordinarily I would be an expert at,” she said.

New research revealed that 57 per cent of Australians agree there is not enough representation of people with disability in sport. The research, commissioned by Mastercard in partnership with Blind Sports Australia found 70 per cent agreed the sports industry has made progress to be more diverse, however there is still work to be done to ensure everyone feels like they belong.

Australians with disability think it is important to have role models and tennis is among the sports that players with disability feel caters specifically to their needs.

To support inclusion at a grassroots level, Mastercard is funding a Blind Sports Australia grant to grow blind and low vision tennis across the country.

Blind Sports Australia chief executive Matthew Clayton said: “We continue to work closely with our state members and Tennis Australia to grow participation in blind and low vision tennis, among other sports, across Australia. Through this grant and partnership, we aim to support aspiring or potential athletes across all levels to have a swing at tennis,” he said. “It is only through representation and progress, such as a match of blind and low vision during the Australian Open 2023, that we were able to raise awareness for the game and encourage inclusivity for all.”

Mastercard will launch Touch Cards in Australia that will be available from mid 2023. The three cards, debit, credit and prepaid, will carry unique notches to help blind and low vision cardholders distinguish their cards.

Mastercard divisional president Richard Wormald said research has shown that only one in 10 Australians with disability believe that sensory disabilities, including vision impairments and hearing loss are represented, and this is far lower than other disabilities. As the official payment partner of the Australian Open 2023, Mastercard is promoting inclusivity on and off the court.

 “With tennis being one of the top three sports for inclusivity, the Australian Open is a brilliant event to champion belonging in sport, making it priceless for all,” he said.

Photo: Mick Leigh, Courtney Webeck and Alicia Molik