Wheelchair tennis was first played in 1976 by Brad Parks, an elite skier who suffered a horrific injury that left him in a wheelchair. As a keen athlete, Parks was eager to continue playing sports and realised that tennis had great potential as soon as he first hit a ball from his wheelchair back in the 1970’s. Parks was helped by Jeff Minnenbraker, a wheelchair athlete from Los Angeles, and the pair quickly set about designing a chair suitable for wheelchair tennis and promoting the sport on the West coast of America.
Wheelchair tennis quickly became a very popular sport and is still amongst the fastest growing disabled sports in the world.
How is wheelchair tennis different to traditional tennis?
The rules of wheelchair tennis are exactly the same as traditional tennis with the exception of one rule – the ball is allowed to bounce twice, rather than once. The rules of wheelchair tennis have been endorsed by the International Tennis Federation. The second bounce of the ball can either be inside or outside the court markings.
Wheelchair tennis competitions
The pinnacle of the wheelchair tennis competition circuit is the Paralympic Games, which takes place every four years. The sport was first included in the games in Barcelona in 1992. The quad division, which was introduced for athletes who have three or four limbs affected by disability, was first included in Athens in 2004.
There are six competitions in the Paralympic Games, which include:
- Men’s singles
- Women’s singles
- Men’s doubles
- Women’s doubles
- Quad singles
- Quad doubles
Aside from the Paralympic Games, there are also many competitions on the wheelchair tennis circuit. There are currently more than 120 tournaments on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, which are held in locations across the world.
Wheelchair tennis is one of the fastest-growing disabled sports and an increasing number of facilities are offering lessons and coaching sessions. The British Tennis Foundation also hosts weekend camps across the country and many facilities now offer wheelchair tennis programmes. If you want to find out more about facilities and opportunities in your local area then you can contact the British Tennis Foundation.