Ben Bartram and Ruby Bishop won the boys and girls wheelchair tennis singles titles at the 2018 School Games to complete a remarkable hat-trick of success for their home city at the weekend.
The wins for the duo, who are both from Norwich, came on the same weekend that Norfolk’s World No.2 Alfie Hewett won a Super Series title in the USA as he completed his US Open preparations, further building the region’s reputation as one of the hotbeds of wheelchair tennis talent.
The School Games are a national multi-sport event for the UK’s most talented school-age athletes. Athletes from across the UK competed in 11 sports, including wheelchair tennis.
In the boys singles, two comfortable wins for Bartram saw him set up what proved to be an epic semi-final clash against 2017 champion Ross Gourley from Belfast, with Bartram eventually prevailing 14-12 in a tie break. Facing Surrey’s Greg Slade in the final, Bartram grew in confidence to take control of the match and claim the prestigious gold medal after a 5-3 4-2 win.
Bartram had gone in to the tournament as the form player, having won both singles and doubles titles at the annual British Open in July. That was a feat he repeated in Loughborough, teaming up with Slade to add the School Games boys doubles gold to his singles victory.
Speaking after his singles win, Bartram said:
“It was really hard, definitely in the first set. I was so tense and so nervous, but in the second set when I got the first one I just released and felt more confident. It’s amazing, it is honestly one of the biggest tournaments I’ve won. I recently won the British Open – I won the singles and doubles for that. It is amazing to win the gold here, it is honestly a great achievement. My sporting goals for the future are to play at Wimbledon and the Paralympics, and to represent my country again would be amazing.”
In the girls singles, Bishop suffered a tie-break defeat in her first round-robin match against 2018 British open winner Abbie Breakwell from Derbyshire. She bounced back by following that with three straight sets wins against players from England, Scotland and Wales to secure a place in the gold medal against Breakwell. The match went to a deciding tie break, with the Norwich junior coming out on top of an epic encounter, 4-2 1-4 (10-7).
In the girls doubles, Bishop had to settle for silver as Breakwell teamed up with Martha Harris to win the gold medal.
Speaking after her singles win against Breakwell, Bishop said:
“I’ve never beaten her before so it was a really good match to actually beat her. The first set I played really well and then dropped a bit in the second but got it back in the tie break. I competed at the School Games last year and got bronze in the singles and silver in the doubles, but this year I have gold in the singles. I just don’t really believe that I’ve done it, it’s amazing really. I definitely want to do it as a career, and play in the World Team Cup hopefully next year and Paralympics in the future.”
Before their success at the School Games, Bartram and Bishop were already considered to be two of the brightest wheelchair tennis prospects in the country, having been selected earlier this year to be two of the seven GB junior players invited on to the Tennis Foundation’s new Junior Futures Potential programme.
Platform for success
The School Games have provided a springboard for many of today’s biggest names in sport, with previous competitors include Paralympic champions Hannah Cockroft, Ellie Simmonds and Jonnie Peacock, Olympic champion Adam Peaty, heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson and GB sprinter Adam Gemili.
Organised by the Youth Sport Trust, the four-day event is supported by National Lottery funding from Sport England. The event aims to replicate the experience of a major sporting event such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games with an athletes’ village and a full education programme that gives the competing athletes a unique insight into the world of elite sport.
The wheelchair tennis tournament at the School Games is managed by the Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity which aims to make tennis a sport with is inclusive and accessible to all, making it possible for them to enjoy the many health and social benefits of the sport while maximising their personal potential.
If you are interested in giving wheelchair tennis – or any other form of disability tennis – a go get in touch with the Tennis Foundation via firstname.lastname@example.org!
For the full list of results from the 2018 School Games wheelchair tennis events, and our daily round-ups of all the action, click here.
Throughout #2018SG, our athletes experience a variety of situations that will help them prepare for the future, such as staying in the athlete village or having interviews with press. pic.twitter.com/nGeh05pGcb
— School Games (@_SchoolGames) September 2, 2018