Wheelchair tennis is one of the forms of tennis adapted for those who have disabilities in their lower bodies. The size of courts, balls, and rackets are the same, but there are two major differences from pedestrian tennis; athletes use specially designed wheelchairs and the ball may bounce up to two times. The second bounce may also occur outside the court.
Wheelchair tennis is played at Grand Slams, and is one of the sports contested at the Summer Paralympics. There are three categories; Men, Women, and Quads; each category has singles and doubles tournaments. Quads is the category for those with quadriplegia and it is sometimes called Mixed especially at Paralympic Games. Quads players can hold rackets taped to the hand and use electric-powered wheelchairs.
Wheelchair tennis increased in popularity in 1976 due to the efforts of Brad Parks, who is seen as the creator of competitive wheelchair tennis. In 1982, France became the first country in Europe to put a wheelchair tennis programme in place. Since then, much effort has made to promote the sport to rid it of the 'therapy' image that still affects many sports for people with disabilities.
The sport quickly became popular worldwide and was introduced to the Paralympic Games as a demonstration event at the Seoul 1988 Summer Paralympics. It was at the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona that wheelchair tennis acquired the status of a full-fledged competition. The 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney boosted public awareness immensely and led to the introduction of the sport to Grand Slams of pedestrian tennis.
For the 2013 season the ITF decided to adopt match tiebreakers in place of a third and deciding set in doubles matches. However the tiebreaker would only be used at events which were rated as ITF1 or lower and at the World Team Cup. The grand slams, however, were free to decide on the format of their tournaments.
International tournaments are organized by International Tennis Federation as a Uniqlo Wheelchair Tennis Tour. In wheelchair tennis, there are five top-ranked major tournaments called Super Series (SS); Australian Open (Melbourne), British Open (Nottingham), Japan Open (Iizuka), US Open (St. Louis) and French Open (Paris, BNP Paribas Open de France). The World Team Cup is an international team event held annually. To wrap up the season, they have NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters (singles event) and Uniqlo Wheelchair Doubles Masters tournaments which only world top-ranked players can compete. The top eight men and women based on the ranking after the US Open at the end of the year compete to be the champion of the year. In addition, Grand Slams, Australian Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and US Open have each created wheelchair tennis category. It is also played at Paralympic Games and FESPIC games as well. In 1990 wheelchair tennis was played at the abled bodied event in Miami, this lasted for more than 15 years. The Wheelchair Tennis Class 8s at the 2002 Australian Open saw competitive wheelchair tennis take place at the same time and the same venue at a Grand Slam for the first time. In 2005 the Masters series was created, comprising all the events at the Grand Slams and the end of year championships, as Wimbledon and the US Open joined Melbourne. In 2007 Roland Garros joined and the Classic 8s were replaced by the Australian Open which had been held at the same venue two weeks later. In 2009 all events played at the abled bodied Grand Slams were renamed Grand Slams.
The Netherlands has dominated numerous victories at major tournaments including Paralympic Games and Grand Slams.
Esther Vergeer holds the record for winning four Paralympic gold medals - one at the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Games. She holds the record for most consecutive women's wheelchair singles matches won.
- International Tennis Federation. "Rules of Wheelchair Tennis". Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- International Tennis Federation. "About Wheelchair Tennis". Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- ITF Tennis Wheelchair http://www.itftennis.com/wheelchair/organisation/history.aspx. Retrieved 3 March 2015. Missing or empty
- International Paralympic Committee. "'88 Seoul Paralympics: General Information". Retrieved 2011-07-12.
- Glenday, Craig (2013). Guinness World Records 2014. ISBN 978-1-908843-15-9.
- International Tennis Federation: Wheelchair Tennis
- International Paralympic Committee: Wheelchair Tennis
- United States Tennis Association: Wheelchair Tennis
- Tennis Foundation (Great Britain): Wheelchair Tennis
- BBC Gloucestershire feature on the 2007 National Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Gloucester.
- History of Wheelchair Tennis