As I reached Paris to represent India in the French Open for the quadriplegic, it is like coming to yet another home. I will be playing against a Swedish opponent, Peter Edenstorm, in the first round of the French Open. We have played against each other earlier and I will do my best. I am supposed to be playing the second match of the day.

As the players warm up for the tournament, it is about 38 degrees centigrade here in Paris, good enough to watch the tennis. The BNP Paribas French Open for the Quad Singles even gets underway and will be held through this week.  

It has been a tough last few days because I was diagnosed with malaria as I was en route to Paris from Bengaluru. It was a tough time for me to board the connecting flight to Paris because of my health. But I convinced the airline to permit me to fly. After reaching here, I have spoken to the doctor and have been allowed to play, with the doctor saying that I can try my hand. I have been specifically asked not to stretch myself too much since I have lost a lot of liquid over the past few days.

To play for the quadriplegic part of the tournament, a player has to first apply to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for a quad status. The request has to be made at least three months in advance and other formalities have to be completed to be part of the tournament.

I have started the day with a little bit of practice and exercise on the court. I was here with my coach and have now finished my practice. I came early for practice since my coach also has to go back to his work and I did not want to miss some of the last minute preparations.

I am told that a good, lively crowd will be watching us as we go about our game. Several school children are invited to watch the matches and cheer the players.

The rules for wheelchair tennis are slightly different from the regular tennis match. The players are allowed to hit the ball after it has bounced twice on the court. If you lose the match in the first round, you are also allowed to play a consolation match. Players get prize money, points and accolades for winning the tournament while if you play a consolation match, you only get accolades and points.

I have had a long history of association with the French Open and this is the 15th time that I am playing the French Open for the quadriplegic. I first came to Paris to play for the quadriplegic in 2001. I happened to meet my coach of Indian origin, Noel Raz, the same year. When he saw that the Indian flag was put up at the French Open for wheelchair tennis, he was excited and we soon became good friends.

There are two fronts on which I have a challenge this year – the illness last week off the court and the opponent on the court. Hopefully, I can take a shot at making history, despite the health worries.

(Boniface Prabhu is a Coca-Cola athlete who has represented India at the Paralympics and at various wheelchair tennis Grand Slams and Super Series tournaments for the quadriplegic. He was the chief protagonist of Thums Up’s Veer K2K mission)