05 Dec 2013

Wheelchair tennis celebrates Day of Disabled People

News Article

Photo: Tennis FoundationDisability Tennis Festival, Nottingham

There was wheelchair tennis activity in three continents on Tuesday in celebration of the Unites Nations’ International Day of Disabled People.

Nottingham Tennis Centre, home of the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships and the Nottingham Indoor, hosted a Disability Tennis Festival organised by the Tennis Foundation in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association, the International Tennis Federation and the University of Nottingham.

Two-time Paralympic quad singles gold medallist Peter Norfolk OBE, two-time Paralympian David Phillipson and former Brazilian No. 1 and Parapan American Games silver medallist Samanta Bullock attended the Festival to help inspire a new generation of players.

The day included disability inclusion training for those who deliver tennis, including officials, coaches, volunteers and those who work at tennis venues, while later in the day there was the chance to try tennis for free.

“On the back of the momentum created by the London 2012 Paralympic Games, days like this in Nottingham show the range of options available for disabled people to get involved in tennis whether it’s playing for fun, competing, coaching or volunteering,” said Norfolk, who has won five medals at the last three Paralympic Games.

“The best thing about tennis is how adaptable it is and a lot of people think wheelchair tennis is the only option, but the sport can be adapted for anyone, for example if you have a learning disability or are deaf or visually impaired.

“The ITF is delighted to have worked with the Tennis Foundation and the University of Nottingham to bring today's Festival to Nottingham and this is all part of a global campaign to raise awareness of, and promote wheelchair tennis on today's International Day of Persons with a Disability,” said the ITF’s Wheelchair Tennis Manager, Mark Bullock, who also delivered a lecture focussing on the work of the Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund at the University of Nottingham at the end of the day.

In South Africa the International Day of Disabled People was celebrated during the Airports Company South Africa Strand Open, the final ITF 3 Series event on the 2013 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, while in Cameroon and Ghana players took part in events to also coincide with the current Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund visits to both countries.

In Australia, this week is Disability Awareness Week and Adam Kellerman and Ben Weekes, Australia's top two ranked wheelchair tennis players, were on hand at a Disabilty Sports Recreation Festival in Federation Square Melbourne, where wheelchair tennis was available for for all to try.  

During the day Tennis Australia National Wheelchair Tennis Coach Greg Crump was also named Disability Coach Of The Year.

"I started in wheelchair tennis about seven years ago," said Kellerman. "I had not done any sport for three years when I got sick with cancer, so I was really searching for something. My parents came to me and asked to me to come and try disabled sport and I was really excited. I picked up a tennis racket and loved it straight away and have never looked back." 

"It is great to have tennis here as a part of it (the Festival) and get some new people trying it out," said Weekes "We have the mini court here behind us and the guys are playing some games on there. But it is great to be around all the other sports and to have that feeling. 

"I started (playing wheelchair tennis) when I was 15 years old. I had my injury when I was 13 and then, after, my physio wanted me to try out all the different sports and get back into sports again. Obviously I could not run anymore so I needed to find a new way to do it and wheelchair sports was the way. So I picked up my first racket when I was 15 and never looked back since. 

"The first time I played I already knew how to play tennis and then I was in the chair and the ball was just going straight past me and I could not do anything. It was almost frustrating to start to learn to play, but now they have this Hot Shots programme and it's on a mini court and it's easier to get started. It's a really good initiative and a good way to start out."

Wheelchair Sports New South Wales celebrated with the ITF Futures Series Metropolitan Open and a wheelchair sports clinic either side of Tuesday's International Day of Disabled People, while staff and athletes attended various functions on the day.

To watch and hear from Adam Kellerman and Ben Weekes at the Disability Sports Recreation Festival in Melbourne click here.