Wheelchair Tennis 101
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What You Need To Know About Wheelchair Tennis
Wheelchair tennis is an adapted form of the game which enables participants with disabilities in the lower half of their bodies to enjoy the sport. Brad Parks is accredited with creating the sport of wheelchair tennis which only made it into the public eye in 1967 and did not become well-known in the United States until almost a decade later.
The sport quickly became an international hit and was introduced as a demonstration event during the 1988 Seoul Paralympics. At the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, it became known as a fully-fledged competitive sport. Its popularity has grown exponentially ever since and it is now played in almost 50 countries around the world with an estimated 170 tournaments to choose from.
Wheelchair tennis is open to anyone who has been medically diagnosed with a mobility-related disability of a permanent nature which has resulted in a total or substantial loss of function in the lower half of their body. There is a ‘quad’ division within wheelchair tennis which is designed for players with a permanent disability in three or more limbs. This is a mixed division where men and women can play against one another.
Wheelchair Tennis Rules
There is one major difference between wheelchair tennis and traditional tennis which is that the ball is allowed to bounce twice in wheelchair tennis instead of once. Additionally, the second bounce of the ball does not have to take place within the court. Tournament play is the best of 3 sets and is normally in a straight knockout format. Entrants to quad division tournaments are allowed to use electric wheelchairs and the rackets are taped to their hands.
Tactics in Wheelchair Tennis
At the elite level of competition, the wheelchair used by the participant can have a major impact on the outcome of the match as the competitors are generally almost equal in skill. The best wheelchairs are light, durable, responsive and easy to maneuver. The speed of the game has increased rapidly over the years and approximately 70% of the points are played off a single bounce. Also, the serve and volley tactic is used even more frequently in wheelchair tennis than in its counterpart.
Legends of the Sport
Brad Parks is the single most important figure in the history of wheelchair tennis. As well as inventing the sport, he also won a gold medal in the doubles form of the game in the first Paralympics Games in 1992. David Hall from Australia has won 6 Paralympics medals while Esther Vergeer is the most successful female player with an incredible 37 Grand Slam titles and 5 Paralympics medals.