Back the Brits: Wheelchair Tennis Stars All Set For Wimbledon

Back the Brits: Wheelchair Tennis Stars All Set For Wimbledon
Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett

Set on the iconic grass courts at SW19, The Championships, Wimbledon are once again almost upon us. As the nation prepares to don their finest red, white & blue attire to support home-grown talent, it isn’t just the likes of Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund & Jo Konta they should be waving their famous Union Jack flags for, as four more Brits will be going for glory in the Slam’s wheelchair tennis event.

Taking place from Thursday 12th – Sunday 15th July, the wheelchair event at Wimbledon will comprise gentlemen’s & ladies’ singles & doubles, and for the first time, a Quad Doubles Exhibition match.

Amongst the athletes lining-up are reigning Wimbledon Wheelchair Doubles Champions Gordon Reid & Alfie Hewettand British No.1 Lucy Shuker. Quad player and seven-time grand slam champion Andy Lapthorne completes the Brit quartet, with London-born Lapthorne set to play in the first ever quad exhibition match on Saturday 14th July.

Feeling confident in the run-up to the prestigious summer slam, defending Wimbledon Wheelchair Doubles Champion Reid commented:
I go to every tournament with the goal of winning it. The men’s field is extremely strong this year and I know I will have to perform well and produce some of my best tennis to go all the way. The history and the traditions around Wimbledon are what make it so special, along with the chance to compete on the highest stage in front of a home crowd who always get behind myself and the other Brits. I remember watching Wimbledon as a kid in 2001 when Goran Ivanisevic won the title. I bought the same shirt as him and wore it for all my junior tournaments that summer.”
Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett two-time Wimbledon men's doubles champions
Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett
Echoing his doubles partner’s sentiments, 20-year-old current World No.2 Hewett added:
“Wimbledon is special to me for many reasons. The support that I and we get as home players is like no other. The crowds in the stands, the people on social media, the whole nation gets behind its British athletes and I feel very much at home when I play there. I remember being glued to the TV watching Wimbledon as a child, but had never visited The Championships before I competed in them. As I head into my fourth consecutive year, all I’m focussing on right now is getting prepared and making sure that I give myself the best possible chance to do well in singles and doubles.”
Lucy Shuker in action at Wimbledon 2017
Lucy Shuker
Representing the nation as the only Brit in the ladies’ singles & doubles draw, British No.1 Shuker said:
“It’s always a great honour to play at Wimbledon. This year will mark my tenth appearance at SW19 and I feel incredibly proud to be a British woman competing there. I hope that my presence can inspire other women and girls to pick up a racket and try tennis as it really is an amazing sport! As a three-time finalist, I’m always searching to go one better and I always approach every match knowing if I’m able to produce my best tennis on the day, I have a chance of being successful. It’s always so special to play at The Championships.”
With his sights set on the famous SW19 grass, playing at Wimbledon signals the realisation of a childhood dream for Great Britain’s seven-time Grand Slam champion and World No.2 quads player Andy Lapthorne. Speaking ahead of his pending debut, Lapthorne commented:
“Obviously it’s an exhibition to start with this year. The main dream and goal of mine for 10 years now has been to get us a tournament at Wimbledon. That goal hasn’t been fully achieved yet but, for me, it’s massively exciting to have been invited to come and play,”
 
“I’ve been around Wimbledon for years, from first going there to watch as a nine and 10-year-old, when the grounds were still being developed for disabled people. I had to go through the players’ area to get round to where I needed to be and shared a lift with Serena and Venus Williams. I still have a shirt somewhere that was signed by the players’ on one of my early visits. Since then it’s been a dream of mine to play there and something I’ll be forever grateful for. If it hadn’t been for Wimbledon and going to Wimbledon as a kid I wouldn’t have played tennis, I’d have gone and played basketball.”
Andy Lapthorne at Surbiton Wheelchair Tennis Tournament
Andy Lapthorne

The AELTC has staged men’s wheelchair doubles at The Championships since 2005, with women’s doubles added in 2009. Wheelchair singles for men and women players were then introduced as Championships events in 2016, with a quads exhibition event added for the first time in 2018. Watch the British stars in action from Thursday 12th July, with the ladies’ singles final, men’s doubles final & quads exhibition match taking place on Saturday 14th July and the men’s singles & ladies’ doubles finals set for Sunday 15th July.

Wheelchair Tennis – The Facts:

 1.When did the sport begin?

Wheelchair tennis originated in 1976 in the USA, where it was developed and promoted by American players Brad Parks and Jeff Minnenbraker.

Wheelchair Tennis was a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games and made its debut as a full medal sport at the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992. Quad singles and doubles events made their debuts at the Athens 2004 Paralympics.

2. Are the rules the same?

Almost, but not quite! The one major difference to the standard ITF rules of tennis is that the wheelchair tennis player is allowed two bounces of the ball before returning it.  However, it is only the first bounce that is required to be in the court of play.

3. How many different divisions are there?

There are three different divisions of wheelchair tennis, with players competing in one of the men’s, women’s or quad competitions. The men’s and women’s division athletes have disabilities in their lower limbs only and are classified by gender. Quads division athletes have disabilities in both their lower and upper limbs and are classified based on disability, not gender.

4. Great Britain is quite good at wheelchair tennis aren’t we?

Great Britain is actually one of the leading nations in the world for wheelchair tennis! British players have won multiple Grand Slam titles and at Rio 2016 we won 6 wheelchair tennis medals at the Paralympics – more than any other nation!  Britain will have four players playing at Wimbledon this year, two in the gentlemen’s draw, one in the ladies & one in the quads.

5. And finally…. how do I get involved in disability tennis?

Get in touch with Britain’s leading tennis charity, the Tennis Foundation (www.tennisfoundation.org.uk) who work to make tennis inclusive and accessible for all. They can help you find a venue to start playing, or get you along to one of their come and try days.