As one of the only wheelchair tennis player competing on a Southern California USTA 3.5 League team, Atif Moon says he appreciates opponents he faces who don’t take him lightly or ease up when playing against him.
“Most of the players think it’s cool because they’ve never played someone in a wheelchair,” said the 31-year-old Rancho Palos Verdes resident Moon. “They have to get used to letting me have two bounces. They still compete hard, which I like. I wouldn’t want them to play differently.”
Just a few years ago, Moon set aside his dream of working in sports full-time to train with SoCal wheelchair tennis guru Anthony Lara.
“I started working with Anthony around 2005-2006 up until about two years ago,” said Moon. “Anthony taught me a lot and improved my game tremendously. Before I met him I had no backhand, mobility, and was not technically sound at all. Of course I still have a lot to improve but he has definitely made a big impact on my game.”
Moon currently enjoys playing in the USTA Leagues in the evenings and weekends when not working for the family business at Bertech, an electronic distribution company, which he has done full-time for the past five years.
After graduating from UCLA in 2007, Moon worked at NBC as an intern for the Tonight Show. After getting his Masters at Cal-State Long Beach with a degree in Sports Management, Moon worked for the L.A. Clippers, L.A. Galaxy and the Special Olympics.
Soon after, he decided to step away from working in sports to devote more time to tennis and traveled around the country playing multiple events with Lara at his side.
“It was fun and pretty intense, but kind of crazy hours for not a lot of money,” said Moon of working in the sports industry. It’s fun but it’s pretty competitive because everyone wants to work in sports.”
While with the Clippers, Moon worked in the sponsorship department and as a game-night intern.
Born with Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the spinal cord, Moon was given no chance of survival. After three surgeries at the age of one month, he was left paralyzed from the waist down and became wheelchair bound. Moon had three more surgeries at ages 13, 15, and 16 to stabilize his spinal cord, but has not allowed his physical condition to restrict him from living a full life.
Moon started playing tennis at age 6 because his parents wanted him to be active. “I’ve always loved it,” he said. “I played a lot of local tournaments. I was a little bit shy but always liked it.”
Moon’s family is from Pakistan originally and he was born in Torrance.
In 2009, Moon was named by the United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans.