Special Olympics tennis championships open Thursday on Hilton Head

Shipyard Racquet Club once again serves as host for the Special Olympics North America Tennis Championships, with more than 100 Special Olympians coming to Hilton Head Island this weekend for singles and doubles competition.

This marks the 16th consecutive year the tennis championships have been played on Hilton Head Island. An opening ceremony will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m., with competition taking place Friday and Saturday starting at 8 a.m.

Earlier this year, Bluffton's Meghan Witherly won a gold medal in doubles and bronze in singles at the Special Olympics World Games held in Los Angeles.

Competitors are divided into six skill levels, with Level 1 testing individual skills to an Open division for athletes with the highest skill ratings. Two draws are contested in doubles -- one for tandems of two Special Olympians and another for those paired with a "unified" partner of regular ability.

Professional Tennis Registry administers the event.