Tennis

Balboa Tennis Club tournament to benefit injured local player Ivan Smith

Balboa Tennis Club tournament to benefit injured local player Ivan Smith
Written by highergroundintl

Ivan Smith’s life and budding tennis career took a major detour April 5 when his vehicle was struck by an uninsured driver while Smith was driving to practice at Incarnate Word University in San Antonio.

Smith, who was a star high school player at Hilltop High in Chula Vista and a national NAIA doubles champion at San Diego Christian College before transferring to Incarnate Word, suffered several severe injuries including paralysis to his spine as well as a bone infection that has kept him bed-bound since the accident.

An all-conference player last spring, Smith has been hospitalized in the San Antonio area since the incident.

The Smith family and family friends have started a GoFundMe to help with the major costs associated with his ongoing care. Additionally, starting Monday and running through Thursday, the Balboa Tennis Club is hosting the Ivan Smith Championships to raise funds as well.

How to help

The GoFundMe page to benefit Smith is here. For information on the tournament, visit balboatennis.com.

Balboa Tennis Club member and family friend Michelle Ford has helped organize fundraising for Smith’s care and provided this update when promoting the tournament and GoFundMe: “Ivan has had five surgeries, yet he is recovering and making progress. Under the doctor’s strict orders to lay flat, the bone infection is healing and his temperature is stable but he has lost a lot of weight. Since April 5, he has been lying on his back but still maintains a good attitude.”

Ivan’s father and Balboa Tennis Club board member, Gary Smith, said the main focus now is getting Ivan stabilized to the point where he can travel to participate in an experimental treatment program at a place such as Chicago’s well regarded Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, which specializes in paralysis research and rehabilitation.

“He’s trying to stay as positive as he can,” Gary Smith said. “Obviously it’s just a shocking thing to happen to a healthy young athlete whose entire future is ahead of him. The goal is to get him in a place where we can get treatment to help him as much as possible. He’s not going to give up. He’s said that repeatedly.”

San Diego native and current ATP top 50 ranked player Brandon Nakashima has been a friend of Ivan’s since the two were budding stars on the Southern California youth tennis scene and has lent his support.

In May, Nakashima flew back between playing in the Italian and French opens to attend and promote a fundraiser for Ivan at the Balboa Tennis Club.

“He’s been a good friend of mine,” Nakashima told USTA.com. “We used to compete with each other, practice with each other. We kind of went our separate directions a little bit (for college). But we’ve stayed in touch over the years. It’s a tough situation right now. It’s very sad, but we’re just trying to do everything we can help out and hopefully have him recover from this.”

Ivan, who turns 21 on Tuesday, faces a long, arduous and expensive journey, but the San Diego-area tennis community is doing whatever it can to make that path as smooth as possible.

This week’s tournament was put together with that in mind. Ivan’s older brother Kevin Smith, who played college tennis at Pacific, is among the high level players playing in the tournament.

“The entire tennis community is in mourning over this devastating accident, yet like a family, we are close-knit and have come together to support Ivan’s plight financially through GoFundMe and private donations,” Balboa Tennis Club Director Colleen Ferrell said. “We hope to see him in trials and to find a way to walk again.”

Carter is a freelance writer.

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