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University of Houston hosting international wheelchair tennis tournament

Magnolia Alexander, who is competing in the tournament, was just a year into college when a gunshot wound to her back left her paralyzed from the waist down.

HOUSTON — The University of Houston's men's basketball team isn't the only "Coogs" team to root for this weekend.

The university's adaptive sports program is hosting a tennis tournament with players representing 20 states and 12 countries.

Competing is Dutch tennis player Ruben Spaargaren's. 

The only thing you might notice about his serve in tennis is the speed.

But go beyond the baseline and you'll find that there's far more to his game.

"At the age of 10, I got into the wheelchair," Spaargaren's said. "I had bleeding in my back. My legs completely fell out. I couldn't move them anymore. I couldn't feel anything."

Fast forward 12 years later and now Ruben is the 12th ranked men's wheelchair tennis player in the world.

"The sporting thing inside of me, it didn't change when I got into the chair."

He'll be competing in Memorial Park in the University of Houston's International Cougar Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.

"I also tried wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis in the end. And it was the sport that attracted me the most."

The only real difference is that the ball can bounce twice. Something newer players like Magnolia Alexander, who is in her first tournament, are getting the hang of.

"When this first happened, looking back I never thought I would have been here," she said.

In 2020, Alexander was just a year into college when a gunshot wound to her back left her paralyzed from the waist down.

"I never would have thought my body would progress to this point, my mind would progress to this point. It took a lot to get where I'm at right now and I'm really proud of myself," Alexander said.

And at all levels, no matter which way the ball bounces, in almost all of their journeys, tennis has been about bouncing back.

"Just knowing that you're not different than any other people or person."

Zack Tawatari on social media: Twitter | Instagram

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