Breaking Barriers: Celebrating AAPI Leaders in Tennis and Pickleball

Celebrating AAPI in tennis and pickleball with CourtReserve

In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, we recognize the transformative impact of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders in the world of racquet sports—a field ripe for greater diversity and inclusion.

This month, CourtReserve shines a spotlight on five individuals in tennis and pickleball whose passion and perseverance are ushering in a new era of representation and achievement in racquet sports.

May we look to them and their achievements both on and off the courts, as they inspire us to shape racquet sports for our future generations.

Here are the CourtReserve champions we’re highlighting:

  • Justin Belisario
  • Zheng Qinwen
  • Amitabh Jain
  • Lingwei Kong
  • Aman Grover

Justin Belisario, ACEing Autism

It’s not often that you hear of a MD who leaves a promising career to pursue non-profit work. But for Justin Belisario, joining ACEing Autism was more than just a job. It was his life’s purpose and a cause that was close to home, as his cousin was affected by the developmental disorder from a young age. While attending medical school, he discovered the non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with autism grow through the sport of tennis. 

Combining his lifelong love for tennis and his desire to give back, Belisario found himself deeply connected to ACEing Autism’s mission. The non-profit’s programs in the USA leverage the game of tennis by providing crucial support to those who are developmentally disabled. Led by trained Program Directors and volunteers, these programs offer a nurturing environment where participants can enhance a range of skills, from turn-taking to motor planning, while engaging in the social aspects of the sport. Its programs meet athletes at their individual levels through a tailored curriculum. 

Its school-based initiatives bring tennis clinics directly into elementary, middle, and high schools, ensuring broader accessibility and reaching more children with autism. By integrating tennis into school P.E. classes and training teachers on the ACEing Autism curriculum, the organization extends its impact beyond traditional tennis settings. Through these approaches, it fulfills its mission of promoting social connections and fitness for children with autism, addressing a significant gap in available resources and support for the developmentally disabled community.

“Why don’t we bring underrepresented talent early on? Whether that be through an internship or paid summer jobs for high school students, it would allow youth to access the sport and understand if it’s a fit for them.”

Belisario, a former collegiate tennis player for Johns Hopkins University, initially perceived limited career paths within the tennis industry, believing it was primarily about going pro or becoming a coach. However, his perspective shifted significantly through his involvement with ACEing Autism. He realized that there are numerous fulfilling racquet sports roles beyond playing professionally or coaching, such as non-profit work, tennis management, and board memberships that should welcome people of all backgrounds.

Engaging young talent early

Belisario also emphasizes the importance of reducing barriers to entry of the tennis sport, such as high costs, and increasing representation of people of color in leadership positions to foster a more inclusive environment. He believes that by showcasing the diverse talent within tennis, particularly among junior players, and providing support and opportunities, the industry can become more accessible and welcoming to all.

He says, “Although what we are doing with tennis [at ACEing Autism] is more inclusive, it’s still a very exclusive sport. It might be expensive. For some, it has a difficult barrier to entry, right? Some people may think ‘If a parent or somebody else can’t do it, how can my child on the spectrum do it?’ What we are trying to do is break down the barriers to not only tennis, but to those with autism and their families.”

While Belisario believes there is still work to be done to make tennis a more inclusive sport for all, he is hopeful that the community can address lack of diversity through making racquet sport more accessible, starting with our youth. He says, “Why don’t we bring underrepresented talent early on? Whether that be through an internship or paid summer jobs for high school students, it would allow youth to access the sport and understand if it’s a fit for them.”

Zheng Qinwen, Tennis Pro

At just 21 years old, Zheng Qinwen is a rising star in tennis that has already made significant strides in her career, exemplifying her prowess as a Chinese woman in the sport. She embarked on her tennis journey at a young age and throughout her professional career, she has achieved remarkable success, reaching a career-high singles ranking of world No. 7 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in January 2024. Zheng’s list of accomplishments includes winning two WTA Tour titles, one WTA Challenger, and eight ITF singles titles. 

Her breakthrough performance led to her being named the 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year. Notably, Zheng’s remarkable journey reached new heights when she contested the final of the 2024 Australian Open, showcasing her resilience and skill on the grand stage. Beyond her achievements on the court, Zheng’s career trajectory serves as a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes, especially young women and people of underrepresented minorities in the racquet sports industry. 

Amitabh Jain, Rally Sports Ventures and Pickleball Minds

Amitabh Jain, Managing Partner of Rally Sports Ventures and Pickleball Minds, stands at the forefront of the rapidly growing game of pickleball. A former engineer by trade, Jain has shifted to set his focus on the business of pickleball with Pickleball Minds, a new business forum event dubbed as the ‘Davos of Pickleball’ poised to connect industry leaders, pros, and visionaries who want to help move the needle for the pickleball community. 

The first ever Pickleball Minds event was held On May 3rd in Princeton, NJ, where Jain and his Rally Sports Venture team gathered stakeholders ranging from venue operators to investors, pros, suppliers, vendors, and beyond. With a goal of fostering a collaborative and innovative environment with several panels and keynote speakers contributed to conversations surrounding subjects on tech, business, trends, legal, real estate, in the business of pickleball.

The successful premiere event has launched a nationwide tour for gatherings called ‘Pickleball Minds Meetups’ in 10 cities, including:

  1. New York City, NY
  2. Pittsburgh, PA
  3. Columbus, OH
  4. St. Louis, MO
  5. Denver, CO
  6. Las Vegas, NV
  7. Los Angeles, CA
  8. Salt Lake City, UT
  9. Kansas City, MO
  10. Indianapolis, IN

The Pickleball Minds Meetup events hopes to connect pros, experts, investors, club owners, and developers in the pickleball community.

Jain also recently announced that Pickleball Minds will debut in China on October 4th, 2024, showcasing his dedication to the future of pickleball on a global scale. 

Lingwei Kong, Tennis and Pickleball Pro

Lingwei Kong, a trailblazer in both tennis and pickleball, has emerged as a prominent figure in the racquet sports industry. Hailing from Guong Zhou, China, Kong relocated to Wichita, Kansas in 2019 to pursue her academic and athletic endeavors at Wichita State University. During her time there, she showcased her talent as she dominated the #1 singles and doubles positions for the women’s tennis team. 

Prior to her collegiate career, Kong embarked on a journey as a touring professional on the ITF Tour in Asia from 2016 to 2018, laying the foundation for her success in the sport. But Kong’s journey didn’t end with tennis. In late 2022, she was introduced to pickleball through the vibrant PPA community in Wichita. Quickly adapting to the new sport, Kong’s passion and skill propelled her to turn professional shortly after graduating from college at the PPA Tour’s Seattle Open in July 2023. 

As a sponsored athlete by Lunar Pickleball, Kong is dedicated to promoting and expanding awareness of pickleball. With her diverse background, remarkable achievements, and unwavering determination, Lingwei Kong stands as a shining example of Asian leadership in the racquet sports industry. 

Aman Grover, FansPlay

Aman Grover, the visionary force behind FansPlay, stands as a testament to the fusion of technology and racquet sports. With over 18 years of expertise in information technology and services, Grover’s journey is marked by a relentless pursuit of digital innovation.

His platform, FansPlay, promises a “true immersive experience for the racquet sports fantasy gaming industry.” It also touts that “users can create their own dream teams made up of real players, where they can compete for points based on their performances in live matches.”

Grover believes that accessible digital platforms can help bridge the lack of diversity gap in the racquet sports industry. He says, “Engagement platforms can unite and connect the community, allowing them to participate in both active gameplay and meaningful conversations.” Grover’s company, FansPlay, is dedicated to addressing that need through its interactive community-driven platform. 

Grover’s contributions also go beyond the digital realm; as the General Secretary of the Pickleball Sports Association of Uttar Pradesh, he spearheads initiatives to promote and develop the pickleball sport, embodying his fierce dedication as both a player and enthusiast. His involvement in organizing local and international pickleball events highlights his commitment to fostering camaraderie within the sport.

Creating a more inclusive space for tennis and pickleball

As we draw the curtains on this exploration of Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders in tennis and pickleball, the resounding message is one of celebration and hope. These individuals have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also paved the way for greater diversity and inclusivity within tennis and pickleball. 

From Justin Belisario’s heartfelt dedication to ACEing Autism to Zheng Qinwen’s meteoric rise in professional tennis, each story serves as a beacon of inspiration for future generations. Amitabh Jain’s innovative approach to pickleball and Lingwei Kong’s seamless transition between tennis and pickleball has inspired our community with the boundless opportunities that await those willing to challenge convention. Aman Grover’s efforts in leveraging technology to foster community engagement invites people from all walks of life around the globe to unite in their shared love of racquet sports.

And as we at CourtReserve look ahead, we are committed to helping make racquet sports more accessible and inclusive for all, ensuring that every individual, regardless of background, has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to our sporting community. 

For more information on ACEing Autism or how to support their cause, visit

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