With the Gentlemen’s and Ladies Wheelchair Tennis tournament getting underway at Wimbledon on Thursday, we’ve put together a beginners guide to the sport and this year’s competition…
There’s wheelchair tennis at Wimbledon?
Yes there certainly is! We think it is the best thing about the Championships, but we are biased! Last year was the first time a singles competition had been played, but wheelchair tennis has been played on the grass at SW19 since 2005 when a doubles competition was first introduced. There are eight men and eight women involved in the singles, with the same eight players taking part in the doubles.
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.
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.
I’ve heard it is a great sport to watch, is that right?
The skill level of the top players in the game is phenomenal, with them movement and positioning around the court coupled with brilliant racket skills often leading to some incredible rallies. You may have seen this point from the Rio Paralympics last year which went viral on social media…
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! Last year 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 men’s draw and two in the women’s. Read our full preview here.
A double defending champion…
Scotland’s Gordon Reid won gold in Rio and is currently ranked second in the world. He is also the defending Wimbledon singles champion as well as for doubles – a title he won with Paralympic silver medallist Alfie Hewett. The pair will be teaming up again in the doubles this year to defend their title.
The new kid on the block – and he’s a real fighter…
Alfie is just 19 years of age but has already tasted Grand Slam singles success having won the title at Roland Garros last month, and is currently ranked sixth in the world. In that final he was 6-0, 2-0 down against current world number one Gustavo Fernandez, before going on to win 0-6, 7-6 (11-9), 6-2, a performance which has added to his reputation for never giving in and being a fighter.
Great Britain’s number one woman…
In the women’s competition, British number one Lucy Shuker will be playing at Wimbledon for the ninth time after reaching the doubles final in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Lucy is currently ranked seventh in the world and is a double Paralympic bronze medallist.
A nine-time Grand Slam winner…
Lucy is joined in the women’s draw by her Paralympic teammate Jordanne Whiley. Jordanne is a nine-time Grand slam champion, and is the defending Wimbledon Ladies Doubles Champion having lifted the trophy last year with her Japanese partner Yui Kamiji.
So, who is their competition then?
It won’t be easy for any of the British players this year. All four of them have received tough draws in the singles. Gordon faces last year’s finalist Stefan Olsson of Sweden, while Alfie is up against France’s world number five Nicolas Peifer.
Lucy has been drawn against second seed and world number one Yui Kamiji, while Jordanne will face the Netherland’s Diede de Groot who is ranked third in the world.
In the doubles, Gordon and Alfie are the second seeds and will be hoping to reach the final again this year and renew their rivalry with France’s Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer. Jordanne and Lucy are in different halves of the doubles draw but they will be up against the first and second seeded pairs respectively as they look to claim a spot in the final.
When are the finals?
The Ladies Singles and Men’s Doubles finals are on Saturday, while the Men’s Singles and Ladies Doubles finals are on Sunday.
How can I watch it?
The BBC will be covering the matches, both on the TV and via the Red Button – and if you are lucky enough to have a ground pass for Wimbledon over the next four days make sure you get along to watch!
Are there any other wheelchair tennis tournaments in this country?
Yes! After Wimbledon the next major event is also in this country – the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Nottingham! The event will feature all the world’s best players, including all those playing at Wimbledon. Tickets are available now priced just £2-£5 for adults, while tickets for children are free! Get your tickets now here.
How do I get in to playing disability tennis?
Get in touch with us here at the Tennis Foundation! We are Great Britain’s leading tennis charity, and work to make tennis inclusive and accessible for all. We can help you find a venue to start playing, or get you along to one of our come and try days.
Do you just do wheelchair tennis?
No, we want tennis to be a sport for anyone, whatever their disability. Our disability development work provides opportunities for people who are physically impaired, visually impaired, deaf or have a learning disability. We also support a range of local, regional and national competitions for both adults and juniors, so if you have been inspired by Wimbledon get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.