Working hard on and off the court: Paralympian Conner Stroud ranks as one of the best wheelchair tennis players in the world
Published 8:30 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023
FOOTHILLS–Conner Stroud, 22, of Rutherfordton, is a top-ranked wheelchair tennis player who lives near the Polk County line. Through hard work and determination, Stroud has turned his love for tennis into travel and inspiration, representing his country as a Paralympian for Team USA in the World Team Cup.
“Tennis uses the language of life,” Hall of Fame Tennis player Andre Agassi once said. “Advantage, service, fault, break, love – the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence because every match is a life in miniature.”
Paralympian Conner Stroud has used tennis to learn to live his life to the maximum. Stroud, the #3 ranked wheelchair player in the USA and #42 in the world, is known in the area not only for his outstanding tennis but also for working at a tennis facility owned by his parents, Dewey and Rita Stroud. Peachtree Racquet Club, located at 515 Long Branch Rd., in Forest City, is a tennis-focused business that just celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, Conner had no femurs, hips, ankles, or knees. At age two, he underwent surgery that amputated the front part of each foot. Not long after, at four, he was on the court with a racquet, learning to play from his father, a former college player at Clemson.
Conner, who walks using foreshortened prosthesis, eventually transitioned to playing in a wheelchair at the age of ten and, from there, quickly began to get noticed throughout the international tennis circuit. He’s even been able to meet his idol Rafael Nadal and other legends of the sport, such as Andy Roddick and Justin Gimelstob.
“Transitioning to playing in the wheelchair took some time since I don’t usually use a wheelchair,” Stroud adds. “The key is to get a good initial push to get to the ball, and the chairs are designed the same as other wheelchair sports, so they are lightweight.”
The sport of wheelchair tennis originated in California in the late ’70s after former professional skier Brad Parks was paralyzed in an accident. Parks started experimenting with hitting tennis balls from his wheelchair while in rehabilitation and went on to develop and promote the sport. Parks even played for the same Team USA Stroud plays for now.
Since then, wheelchair tennis has become a full medal sport at the Paralympics and is played at all four Tennis Grand Slams across three levels: Men’s, Women’s, and Quads.
Stroud puts playing for his country as a Paralympian Team USA member as one of the highlights of his young career. He also played for the University of Alabama wheelchair tennis team on full scholarship and is now back home completing his degree and planning his itinerary for the next tournaments. Next week, he heads out to Rome, GA, and then Baton Rouge, LA.
“The biggest lessons from tennis have come from meeting people from around the world and seeing different places. I like to interact and experience different cultures through people and places. There is so much more out there in the world compared to what we often think is out there,” Conner said.
To follow Connor’s journey as a professional tennis player, visit his Instagram page, @okayconner. To learn more about Peachtree Racquet Club, call (828) 429-5861. It has four-lighted clay courts, offering private and group lessons and hosting events.