ByJoel Drucker - Published Nov 23, 2023
You won’t find a tennis story more inspiring than the one currently being authored by Landon Sachs. Landon is currently on scholarship to play wheelchair tennis at the University of Arizona.
“The campus was super-accessible,” he told Tennis Channel. “I think I’ll probably learn a lot from people who go there.”
Sachs has arrived at this point as the survivor of a tragedy of unspeakable dimension. On February 9, 2014, for reasons still unknown, Landon’s older brother, Ashton, shot and killed both of their parents, Brandon and Andra, at their home in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Landon, eight years old at the time, was also shot by Ashton. He survived, but was left paralyzed from the waist down. Landon’s care and welfare were taken over by his older brother, Myles.
“It all stems from a promise I made to my mother many moons ago,” Myles said in an NBC story. “If anything were to happen to her I would do whatever it takes to make sure everyone stays together.”
In the fall of 2021, Amy Hemphill, dean of athletics and an English teacher at Landon’s school, JSerra Catholic High School, started an adaptive tennis program. She suggested Landon try the sport. “He was just all-around the athletic type,” said Myles.
Still, as is the case for all beginning tennis players, Landon initially struggled. “All I knew—hit the ball, hit it back,” Landon told the Los Angeles Times last year.
In time, though, his skills rapidly improved. And the tenacity that had carried Landon through nearly a decade of trying times also surfaced.
“Landon hates to lose,” said his high school coach, Keith Orahood. “That’s what’s helped him improve.”
Within a year, Landon had become one of the best wheelchair players in the U.S. Along the way, he became the first wheelchair athlete in his county’s high school history to play against a fully abled opponent.
First stop: Arizona. Next: the US Open?
Another major highlight came when Landon traveled to Rome, Ga. and came in second at the USTA Junior National Wheelchair Championships.
“Tennis has a way of helping someone lost to have a focus,” said Jason Harnett, USTA director of wheelchair tennis. “Sports are kind of magical that way.”
Landon hopes in time to play at Wimbledon and the US Open. His advice for others is direct and powerful.
“Don’t be too unwilling to try out a new sport,” said Landon. “It can be daunting. It was for me. But once you try out a new sport, it will maybe change your future.”