The history of Paralympic tennis dates back to the 1988 Seoul Paralympics where the sport was first trialed. It was initially used as a demonstration and example for aspiring Paralympic athletes prior to society taking a more serious stance on the ability of anyone, regardless of their abilities, to participate. In the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic Games, the sport was taken more seriously and athletes were able to compete for gold, silver and bronze medallions (Tennis Australia, 2015). The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games further raised the sport as one of the most popular in the 21st century and Paralympic tennis players were regarded as highly professional athletes. At the most recent Paralympic Games in London, 2012, crowds for the sport were almost as high as regular tennis matches between some of the most famous tennis stars of all time (USTA, 2015).
The rules of Paralympic tennis, otherwise known as Wheelchair tennis, closely emulate that of normal tennis with doubles and single matches being conducted. The only difference is that in Paralympic Tennis, players are allowed two bounces of the ball prior to being required to hit it over the net. This takes into account the longer period of time taken for players to move towards the ball and with the slower capacity of a wheelchair (USTA, 2015). Furthermore, there are some slight leniencies associated with serving and being able to reach balls that cross the double lines and back lines of the court. The reach and agility of each player is also taken into account when assessing legalities associated with each player’s serve. Otherwise, all other rules are the same and the game takes on a new meaning when handicapped players are able to provide a quality of tennis that is very close to current players who are not handicapped (USTA, 2015).
Equipment used in Paralympic Tennis include tennis rackets for each player and tennis balls, which are provided and managed by linesman. Umpires also regulate the game and ensure that the players adhere to all rules and regulations (BPA, 2015).
The classification system of the sport is such that each player must be in a wheelchair when participating and have a legitimate injury, which prevents them from standing or running or walking across the court. Furthermore, players must be assessed with respect to their conditions in order to determine whether they can play or if their ability classifies them as being a player who is not handicapped (BPA, 2015).
There are a number of disabilities that qualify for the sport. The first disability is quad or otherwise known as quadriplegia. This injury focuses on the player not being able to move any of their limbs or having very severe restrictions on the extent of their movement. This confines the player to a wheelchair and allows them to move across the court and have some degree of ability in returning a serve and providing spectators with a quality display of tennis (Tennis Australia, 2015). Other disabilities include further restrictions on select limbs that are less restrictive than quadriplegia. For example, players can be completely disabled in the legs but able to move freely, their arms, which allows for serving and quick returns of service and free play throughout tournaments (BPA, 2015). After the most recent 2012 Paralympic games, there has been a push for an extension to current classifications for Paralympic tennis to allow blind and hearing impaired tennis and it is expected that in the Paralympic Games in 2016, these classifications will be carefully considered, if not included in the sport (USTA, 2015).
In conclusion, this informative paper has provided a synopsis of the Paralympic sport of wheelchair tennis and its history, background, rules, classifications, qualifications and future.
- BPA. (2015). Wheelchair Tennis. British Paralympic Association, Retrieved from http://paralympics.org.uk/paralympicsports/wheelchair-tennis Accessed on 3rd December 2015.
- Tennis Australia. (2015). Wheelchair Players. Tennis Australia, Retrieved from http://www.tennis.com.au/play/players-with-a-disability/wheelchair-players Accessed on 3rd December 2015.
- USTA. (2015). The Rules of Wheelchair Tennis. United States Tennis Association, Retrieved from http://www.intermountain.usta.com/Wheelchair-Tennis/18996_The_Rules_of_Wheelchair_Tennis/ Accessed on 3rd December 2015.