Born without right hand, Roest vies for USTA title

KAPALUA – Qualifying for the USTA’s Mixed 40 & Over National Invitational would be a special achievement for most.

For Marc Roest, making the tournament is even more impressive – he did it with just one hand.

Roest, born without his right hand, is part of the 9.0 Southern California team that is among the squads competing in the three-day event, which began Friday and is taking place at the Sheraton Maui Tennis Club in Lahaina, the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch and the Kapalua Tennis Garden.

“It’s a pretty cool, unique opportunity that doesn’t happen very often so from that aspect it’s a very unique experience,” said Roest, 49, who teamed with Samantha Mills for a 6-1 6-1 win over Lloyd Pearson and Jennifer Joy Teti of the Middle States team in a mixed doubles match Friday. “It’s awesome to be here. I’ve been to Hawaii before but it feels awesome for this specific tennis reason.”

Roest didn’t start playing tennis until he was 28.

“I like a challenge and it was a new challenge for me,” he said.

“I was born without a hand so I just play and do it. You figure out how to get it done, and I just figured it out The challenges are in your head so if you work on your head, then you’ll succeed.”

Shaun Bernadou, the captain of Roest’s team, sees him as an inspiration to the squad.

“We’ve been around him for so long now so we forget that he’s handicapped,” she said. “He is such a great lefty player, that’s his weapon. So we all kind of forget how amazing of an achievement it is for him to play at this level and be as successful as he is. So absolutely he’s inspiring all of us.”

For Roest, it’s all about the team this weekend.

“Tennis is always about you and what you do but in this aspect you have to encourage six or eight other people to do well so everyone succeeds,” he said.

“I like this better than the individual aspect of tennis.”

Roest’s focus on team chemistry extends beyond the matches themselves.

“He’s a really, really good player, a tough player. Absolutely a team player,” Bernadou said. “But off the court, he’s just a very generous person. He’s very inclusive and a very welcoming person. He wants everybody to have a good time and be part of the group, which is a unique quality.”

The tournament has 52 teams and more than 600 players in four divisions.

“For me it would be a great accomplishment both team and individually to succeed together. That would be a very good accomplishment,” Roest said. “It would be nice to do it with all these people I know.”

Roest, who said he was a fan of John McEnroe growing up, had a simple response when asked if he hopes to motivate others.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I do this because I enjoy tennis and because I like to inspire.”

“It’s about never giving up,” he said. “About always trying no matter what, and you will always find a way.”