Wheelchair tennis has two major differences than regular tennis; the first is obvious- special wheelchairs, and the second is the bounce of the ball. The ball may bounce up to two times, and the second bounce may occur outside the field. The size of the courts, balls and rackets are the same as regular tennis.
There are three categories- men’s, ladies and quads- each have a single and a doubles category. The “quads” sometimes called mixed can hold rackets taped to the hand and use power wheelchairs.
Through the efforts of an 18 year old Brad Parks (former skier) the sport grew in popularity in 1976. It wasn’t until 1988 when it was demonstrated at the Seoul Summer Paralympic Games that worldwide popularity pushed it to become an official competition in 1992.
In 1976 Brad met Jeff Minnenbaker and from their conversation of possibilities came what is known today as wheelchair tennis.
The 2000 Summer Paralympics boosted public awareness in Sydney which led to the introduction to the Grand Slams of pedestrian tennis.
The International Tennis Federation organized 11 international tournaments in 1992 as a NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour which includes the following top four ranked tournaments known as the Super Series (SS): Australian Open (Melbourne), British Open (Nottingham), Japan Open (Lizuka), and U S Open (St. Louis).
Since this time it has grown in size and popularity with currently over 170 events taking place all over the world.
The wheelchair is considered a part of the body and all rules that apply to the body also apply to the wheelchair. If you are unable to propel your chair using the wheel you may propel using your foot, with rule exceptions that state the foot cannot be on the ground during the forward motion of your swing which includes the racket striking the ball.
Combined wheelchair and able bodied players are allowed to play together with each following the rules for their own type of play. For example able bodied players are allowed one bounce and wheelchair tennis players are allowed two.
Eligibility is dependent upon having a medically diagnosed permanent mobility related to a physical disability which results in a substantial loss of function in one or both lower extremities. Further information can be found at the ITF website Power wheelchairs are acceptable if this is what is used for everyday mobility.
Check to see if your country is a member of the International Wheelchair Tennis Association as currently there are 62 member nations.
Find a friend to play with, remember able bodied players follow the one bounce rule and wheelchair players are allowed two. You can set your own rules when first starting out to suit the abilities of the players.
Find a court in your local area by contacting the city parks department, the local YMCA or any athletic clubs, sports complex, etc. to see if they are wheelchair accessible.
If you like the sport and want to learn more, you may want to locate a coach to help you. A coach can help you improve and help you get what you want when playing with friends or competitively.
When you start playing you do not need a sports wheelchair. You can play in a regular wheelchair. You may want to strap yourself into the chair to improve your stability. Straps can be used around the waist, knees and ankles depending on your balance.
Learn more by contacting the ITF to see what is available in your country.
Wheelchair tennis was born in the 1970’s and evolved to an international sport in the 1980’s with the addition of Junior Wheelchair Events. It was added to the Paralympic sporting venue as a demonstration sport in 1988 in Seoul, and to the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona.
You must have a medically diagnosed permanent mobility in order to participate.
You can participate in singles, doubles or quads, with able bodied players and can use a power chair.