Paralympic tennis player, Casey Ratzlaff was born as a result of an experimental intra neuro-surgery in Wichita, KS. Due to a malformation on his spine while he was still in his mother's womb, Casey was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, called Spina Bifida. The experimental surgery ended up being a success and the consequences of Casey's disability were relatively lessened. Nevertheless, Casey's early childhood required many hospital visits and several correctional surgeries to aid his physical development and to improve his quality of life, including a realignment of the hips, tibia and fibula bones, and a surgery to remove the amount of clubbing on his foot.
Despite the medical attention Casey required as a kid, he grew up in a loving and caring family who never treated Casey differently from his brother and two sisters. From an early age, Casey dreamt of becoming a professional athlete and be featured on TV someday. In 2011 when Casey was 14 years old, he was introduced to the sport of wheelchair tennis at an adaptive sport clinic at a local high school in Wichita, KS. In that same clinic, Casey had the great fortune of meeting the Paralympic tennis legend, Nick Taylor, who, to this day is one of Casey's great friends and mentors in tennis. Nick Taylor saw Casey's natural ability to play wheelchair tennis and promised to Casey's parents, Tammy and Craig Ratzlaff, that their son could one day play on the National Team representing Team USA, if he kept working hard.
Encouraged by Nick Taylor's words, Casey wanted to pursue wheelchair tennis and become a great wheelchair tennis player, like the legend himself. Thus, the Ratzlaff family was introduced to the small but tight community of wheelchair tennis players in Wichita, KS and started training. Only a year after his special encounter with Nick Taylor, Casey was invited by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to be a part of the Junior Wheelchair Tennis National team at his first World Team Cup competition in Antalya, Turkey. With that experience, Casey’s career began on the ITF International Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
Casey represented the USA Jr. National Team between 2013-2016, where he was part of two World Championship winning teams. Since 2018, Casey has been competing with the US Men’s National Team and won a Silver medal in Men’s Doubles at the 2019 Para Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. In 2018, Casey reached the #1 spot in the US Men's Ranking for the first time, a ranking that he proudly maintains to this date. In 2019, he had the honor of being on the US Men's Team at the Para-Pan American Games in Lima, Peru and won a Silver medal in Doubles. In 2020, he was selected for the US Open wild card and had his first Grand Slam experience, where he competed against some of the best players in the world. In 2021, he made his official Paralympic debut in Tokyo as part of Team USA.
Subsequently, Casey gained a lot of experience that helped boost him towards being among the world's most elite wheelchair tennis players and he has had the privilege of receiving the wild card in 2 consecutive years for the US Open since 2020. Since early 2022, Casey has achieved a career high ranking of 15 in the world in Singles, and is working hard to achieve his goals of reaching the Top 10 and playing in 4 Grand Slams as well as competing in Paris 2024 and LA2028 Paralympic Games, representing Team USA.
Currently, Casey lives and trains full time in Birmingham, AL with Coach Justin DeSanto and is in the Sports Management graduate program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Casey is passionate about teaching younger kids wheelchair tennis and raising awareness about the impact of adaptive sports for younger kids with a physical disability. He has had public speaking experiences, especially in school settings, addressing students about importance of sports, inclusion, and anti-bullying. He hopes to inspire kids and adults alike, through his personal story of perseverance and work ethic.
Casey's story will continue to write itself, as this is just the beginning. Make sure to follow him on Instagram to get frequent updates on the Road to Paris 2024 and don't hesitate to drop in a note for him.