3 Things You Never Knew About Wheelchair Tennis
This September, the eyes of the world will turn to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympics – the first time this event will be held in Latin America.
For my “roll to Rio”, I’ve been training hard and preparing to put on a great show – and a big part of that preparation is spreading the word about just how exciting a game wheelchair tennis can be.
Often when I tell people about wheelchair tennis, their general assumption is that it’s like regular tennis, just on wheels.
There are some crucial differences, however, that guarantee unique and exciting situations on the court during a game of wheelchair tennis that are sure to thrill any tennis purists and captivate those watching the sport for the first time:
1. It’s Faster Than You Think
The first time you ever see a tennis match live instead of on TV, you realise how fast the game is, how small the court is and how powerful the strokes really are.
Now put all of that in a wheelchair and turn up the heat! Wheelchair tennis is an incredibly demanding sport, combining all the skill of tennis serves and strokes with the need to wheel around the court.
This can make for some ferociously fast rallies and cross-court action that brings areas to play that you’ve never seen before. Just wait till you see a player hit a formidable backhand while pushing their wheelchair at full pace!
2. Watch The Wheels, Not The Ball
Later this year a new Star Wars movie is coming out – and you may be forgiven if you think that sometimes wheelchair tennis players “use the force” during matches.
A big part of being a successful wheelchair tennis player is being able to accurately predict where your opponent is going to hit the ball, and move there when they do it.
Because we can’t move our wheelchairs laterally, players tend to move in a V pattern, and often have to take their eye off the ball when pushing ourselves to where we think the ball is going to go.
As a spectator, it’s great fun to watch the ball as well as the wheels on the chairs too. It’s a game within the game to get into position and predict your opponent’s move, and for spectators you get double the action.
3. The Stakes Are High
Wheelchair tennis has gone pro – and there are some seriously committed players out there who fight tooth and nail to win.
Wheelchair tennis is played professionally and for big prize money at Wimbledon, Roland Garros, the Australian Open, the Japan Open and the US Open.
Wheelchair tennis players are passionate professional athletes who train hard, travel the world and compete at the highest level.
The wheelchair tennis competition at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio is going to be a huge event for our sport and I hope you all tune in to cheer us on!