Wheelchair tennis is a great way to stay active and be social after a spinal cord injury. Learn about wheelchair tennis so you can get out on the court and have fun!
Tennis is one of the fastest-growing wheelchair sports in the world. This court sport offers those with a spinal cord injury the opportunity to play in the same way and with the same rules as any tennis player, with one notable exception—the ball is allowed to bounce twice. This provides greater opportunities to make more shots, stay in longer rallies, and just have more fun!
Wheelchair tennis is a serious competition
Since 1992, wheelchair tennis has been part of the Paralympic Games. It’s also been played and televised at all four Grand Slams—Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open—since 2007, drawing a lot of international attention.
There is also a professional wheelchair tour, the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour. It includes over 150 tournaments in 40 countries with almost $3 million in prize money. There is a season finale that crowns the best wheelchair athletes—the NEC Wheelchair Masters and UNIQLO Doubles Masters.
Getting started with wheelchair tennis
If you were a tennis player before your spinal cord injury, you have the advantage of knowing all the rules and equipment needs as well as contacts at local clubs and national organizations, such as the United States Tennis Association.
If you’re new to wheelchair tennis, here are some tips to help you get started:
· Contact your local tennis club: The quickest way to get on the court is to look into resources, lessons, and court availability at your local club. They may also have tennis instructors that specialize in wheelchair tennis
· Discover wheelchair tennis resources from the USTA: Explore the various wheelchair programs from this national organization. You’ll also find helpful fact and tip sheets that give you an overview of what you can expect as well as information on wheelchair tennis rules and regulations. Local contacts, events, and tournaments are listed as well
· Get the gear: You don’t have to get all the latest flashy apparel the pros wear (unless you want to), but you do need a good tennis racket. Many clubs have a pro shop where you can seek advice and purchase rackets. There may be small businesses that sell tennis gear, and they are often a great place to learn about the different types of rackets. It would be best to discuss strings and stringing tension, which are important factors that determine control and power
· Consider a specialty tennis wheelchair: It’s certainly not required to use anything different from your standard manual wheelchair, but many serious players do invest in a more maneuverable model with wider wheels and a smaller, ultra-lightweight frame. If you intend on pursuing wheelchair tennis long-term or in a competitive league or tournament, this type of wheelchair can help you get to more balls with less physical effort
Singles or doubles? It’s all fun!
Tennis is a great sport that can improve your stamina and fitness while offering you a chance to participate in leagues and stay socially active. Whether you play singles because you want to exert yourself to the maximum on the court or you want to try your hand at doubles and enjoy the camaraderie of having a partner, wheelchair tennis is fun and keeps you healthy!