Wheelchair Tennis Champion David Williams Shares His Competitive Success & Spirit

Editor’s Note: Every great champion has a mountain to climb, and the steeper and the higher the mountain, the more mental and physical strength required to reach the top. And, reaching the top is often not nearly as difficult as staying on top. David Williams of Atlanta, Georgia, national champion in the A Divisionwheelchair division – of the United States Tennis Association, knows the difficulties of overcoming challenges to reach the top and stay there.  Part 1 of a four-part series.

David Williams is a champion on and off the tennis court.

David Williams is a champion on and off the tennis court.

Question: David, what was your greatest challenge in the A Division of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships this year?

Williams: I was in the semifinals, and I hadn’t lost a set of tennis during the tournament. But in the second set of the semifinals, I lost, so we had to go to a third set. The count was three-all in the third set, and the pressure was mounting. I was down 15-30 on my serve, but I pulled through that set and won three-consecutive games in the third set (6-3).

I didn’t know anything about my opponent, which was unusual, because I knew just about everyone in wheelchair tennis. I knew that he was an up-and-comer from Salt Lake City, Utah, and a strong player, because he’d beaten the No. 4 seed the day before 6-0, 6-0.  After that match, I went on to win my third U.S. Open Tennis Championship, A Division.

David plays with and against some of the best wheelchair tennis competitors in the nation.

David plays with and against some of the best wheelchair tennis competitors in the nation.

Question: David, can you help us understand what a championship title in A Division Tennis means?

Williams: There’s only one division higher than A – the Open Division, which is for professionals. I once played in that division, but when I started working more, I dropped down one division. In wheelchair tennis, there are five divisions: Open, A, B, C and D. So, I’m in the second-highest division.

David has played wheelchair tennis since he was 17 years old.

David has played wheelchair tennis since he was 17 years old.

Question: How long have you been playing wheelchair tennis?

Williams: I started playing when I was 17 years old.

Question: How did you end-up in a wheelchair?

Williams: I contracted a very rare virus called Transverse Myelitis. No one knows where it comes from or how you get it.

I was living in  Springfield,Missouri, and had just turned 14 years old. I rode my bike over to a friend’s house to play basketball, when I suddenly started having severe chest pains. Since I was in a lot of pain after playing basketball, I decided to get on my bike and start peddling the mile journey back home. When I got home, I laid on the couch in pain for 2 hours. Then I started losing sensation from my chest to my toes, and I could feel myself slowly growing numb. My mom said, “Get-up! We’re going to the hospital!” I tried to stand-up, but I couldn’t. By the time we got to the hospital, I had no feeling in my legs.

Late that night, an MRI confirmed that I had Transverse Myelitis – a rare spinal cord virus that causes paralysis. I learned that only one in 2.3 million individuals contract this virus. Fortunately, the neurologist called in on my case was one of the most well-respected neurologists in the nation, and he was able to determine that I had this virus very quickly. However, he couldn’t tell us the outcome.

One-third of people with Transverse Myelitis regain all their bodily functions, one-third regain little function, and one-third regain no function at all. I’m one of the fortunate ones. I can stand and walk, if I’m holding on to something. But functionally, I have to use a wheelchair to move around. The night the neurologist told us what to expect, he was non-committal about my future. However, he did let us know that there was a possibility that I’d never walk again, which turned out to be the case for me.

David returned to classes on crutches after his diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis.

David returned to classes on crutches after his diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis.

David Williams’ story has a special place in our heart because David has been part of the UroMed family for more than 10 years. He currently works with clinicians and patients across the Southeast as a Territory Representative for UroMed.  David also volunteers as a peer counselor for UroMed’s non-profit program: Life After Spinal Cord Injury. 

See David talk about his life-changing experiences with Transverse Myelitis and wheelchair tennis in this recent interview filmed by 11Alive NBC News here in Atlanta:


Next: Tennis Champion David Williams Decided Not to Let His Wheelchair Define Him

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

2 Responses to Wheelchair Tennis Champion David Williams Shares His Competitive Success & Spirit

  1. Pingback: National Tennis Champion David Williams Talks About The Important Stuff: Girls & Dating « UroMed Catheter Health Blog

  2. Stacey Blair says:

    David, I’ve always thought you were an outstanding person…before and after your wheelchair. I know it affected you greatly, but you were always the same person to me. You just became more inspirational over the years!

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