Former acrobat skier, 18-year-old Brad Parks, suffers an injury which leaves him paraplegic. During his rehab, he meets wheelchair athlete Jeff Minnenbraker and the two start discussing the possibilities of wheelchair tennis.
Brad and Jeff start promoting wheelchair tennis across the west coast of the USA through a series of camps and exhibitions, and begin establishing the rules of the game. In May, the Los Angeles City Parks and Recreation Department host the first ever wheelchair tennis tournament with around 20 players and the sport begins to develop.
In early 1980, the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis (NFWT) is formed with Brad Parks, David Saltz, Jim Worth and Dave Kiley as the first Board of Directors. A circuit of ten tournaments are established across the USA including the first ever US Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, staged at the Racquet Club of Irvine attracting over 70 players. Brad Parks takes the inaugural title. By the end of 1980, over 300 players are actively playing wheelchair tennis in the USA.
The Wheelchair Tennis Players Association (WTPA) is formed, under the auspices of the NFWT, so that the ever-increasing number of players has an active role in governing the sport of wheelchair tennis.
The first "Grand Prix Circuit" is established consisting of a series of four major events in different cities across the USA, culminating in the US Open in October.
Jean-Pierre Limborg becomes the first international competitor to participate in the US Open and on his return home to Paris, he sets about starting a programme to develop wheelchair tennis in Europe with his former tennis teacher Pierre Fusade. The first wheelchair tennis club opens its doors in Garches later that year. Over in Sydney, Australia, Graeme Watts starts the first wheelchair tennis programme following clinics by Brad Parks and Jim Worth.
France becomes the first country in Europe to put a wheelchair tennis programme in place. Popular French professional players such as Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte assist with high profile up-down exhibitions where a wheelchair tennis player teams up with a non-disabled partner.
Players from other European nations start to hear about wheelchair tennis for the first time and the first international tournament is staged in Paris called the "Open d'Antony". Meanwhile, the Grand Prix Circuit in the USA grows to seven nationally sanctioned events, and the US Open.
Everest & Jennings – the world’s biggest manufacturer of wheelchairs – becomes a major sponsor of the NFWT. The expanding circuit in the USA now includes ten events and becomes known as the Everest & Jennings Grand Prix Circuit.
Masahiro Sato starts the first wheelchair tennis programme in Japan, and in Stoke Mandeville, England, a wheelchair tennis demonstration event is staged for the first time.
Over 1,500 wheelchair tennis players take part in 40 sanctioned events in the USA alone. The quad (players with limited mobility or strength in three or four limbs) and women's divisions expand at a phenomenal rate.
An international team competition, the World Team Cup, is established, with six men's teams competing in the inaugural event. There are not enough women to stage their own event.
The first Japan Open takes place and the European Wheelchair Tennis Federation (EWTF) is formed and establishes a network of tournaments in Europe.
The first official French Open is staged in Antony, Paris. The World Team Cup expands to include a women’s division; The Everest & Jennings Grand Prix Circuit grows to 55 events with over 2000 players participating; the first Junior National Championships at the US Open attracts 60 players in four divisions.
Wheelchair tennis is officially included in the Wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville, England for the first time with 30 men and seven women representing ten nations.
The ITF is approached to assist in developing an international governing body for wheelchair tennis, which sparks the interest of ITF Director of Development, Doug MacCurdy and Brian Tobin, Executive Vice President of the ITF.
The draft constitution and planning documents for the new federation are circulated to the nations after considerable planning and consultation with the ITF. At their AGM, the ITF adopts the two bounce rule in the official Rules of Tennis, officially sanctioning the new sport.
On Monday 10 October, the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation (IWTF) is founded at a meeting during the US Open.
Through the efforts of John Noakes of the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF), in conjunction with Doug MacCurdy and Eichii Kawatei of the ITF Committee of Management, a demonstration of wheelchair tennis is included in the Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea with four men and four women competing. The success of this event leads to wheelchair tennis being included in the 1992 Paralympic Games.
The first Australian Wheelchair Tennis Open takes place at the National Tennis Centre at Flinders Park, Melbourne.
Wheelchair tennis is staged alongside a non-disabled tournament for the first time at the Lipton Players Championships at Key Biscayne, Florida, USA.
NEC join as a major sponsor of the IWTF, providing funding to formalise the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and Ranking, along with a host of other programmes.
Prize money is awarded at the US Open for the first time and the Wheelchair Tennis World Champions are recognised by the ITF for the first time alongside their non-disabled counterparts.
Wheelchair tennis becomes a full medal sport at the Paralympics in Barcelona, Spain for the first time with Pierre Fusade as Technical Delegate. Randy Snow of the USA and Monique van den Bosch of the Netherlands become double gold medallists, taking both singles and doubles titles.
The ITF agrees at its AGM that wheelchair tennis players may compete in non-disabled tournaments if they wish, and in addition, that the complete set of wheelchair tennis rules should be included within the sport's official Rules.
Pierre Fusade takes over Presidency of the IWTF from Brad Parks after five years. Parks is awarded the first IWTF Trophy in recognition of his contribution to the game of wheelchair tennis. In honour of all his work and achievements, the IWTF trophy later becomes known as the ‘Brad Parks Award’.
The inaugural NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters takes place in Eindhoven, Netherlands, with the world’s top eight men and women competing. The first International Junior Camp takes place in Paris in conjunction with the French Open, the European Wheelchair Tennis Championships are sanctioned at Les Petits As junior tournament in France, and wheelchair tennis is included at the FESPIC Games for the first time.
The World Team Cup gains Invacare Corporation as title sponsor leading to the event becoming known as the Action World Team Cup, after Invacare's ultra light sports wheelchairs.
At the ITF's AGM in Cairo, members vote that wheelchair tennis should become a fully integrated part of the ITF, in the same manner as other sectors of the game such as Juniors and Veterans, with its own department and committee.
Martin McElhatton becomes president of the IWTF and Brad Parks retires from the IWTF committee, 20 years after starting wheelchair tennis in the USA. Yannick Noah becomes the first wheelchair tennis patron.
On 1 January the IWTF is fully integrated into the ITF, making wheelchair tennis the first disabled sport to achieve such a union at international level. The International Wheelchair Tennis Association (IWTA) is formed to represent wheelchair tennis governing bodies across the world and the IWTF is disbanded.
The ITF AGM agrees to allow wheelchair tennis players to use two bounces when competing against able-bodied players.
A junior division is included at the Invacare World Team Cup for the first time, and the first NEC Wheelchair Tennis Doubles Masters event is staged in conjunction with the NEC Masters in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.
A wheelchair tennis anti-doping programme is introduced bringing wheelchair tennis in line with non-disabled tennis. The first Coaches Commission for wheelchair tennis is also established to ensure the worldwide growth of wheelchair tennis through coaching and player development.
The 2002 Australian Open becomes the first mainstream Grand Slam to have an NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour event running directly alongside it. The Australian Wheelchair Tennis Open joins the British Open and the US Open in having Super Series status, the equivalent of Grand Slam, on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of wheelchair tennis, the ITF introduces the Wheelchair Tennis Silver Fund, with the aim of establishing wheelchair tennis projects in developing countries that are otherwise not able to embrace the sport.
Italian company Camozzi is named title sponsor for the 2002 World Team Cup, and the 2003 Wheelchair Tennis Doubles Masters, leading to Camozzi becoming part of the family of ITF Wheelchair Tennis Partners.
The biggest ever Paralympic Tennis Event takes place in Athens, Greece, with quad singles and doubles events included in the programme for the first time. Peter Norfolk (GBR) wins the inaugural Paralympic Quad Singles Gold medal, while David Wagner and Nick Taylor (USA) take the Quad Doubles Paralympic title.
The Japan Open becomes the fourth tournament on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour to have Super Series status.
Johann Cruyff Foundation becomes an ITF Wheelchair Tennis Partner, to support the further development of an international junior wheelchair tennis programme.
Wimbledon stages the first ever wheelchair tennis tournament on grass for eight of the world's leading men's doubles players. In September, the US Open at Flushing Meadows becomes the third Grand Slam to stage a wheelchair tennis tournament alongside its main event.
After three successive years of wheelchair tennis exhibitions in Paris, Roland Garros becomes the last of the four Grand Slams to integrate competitive wheelchair tennis events.
The restructuring of ranking points for the 2009 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour takes the sport into a new era, with a new Grand Slam tournament grading installed for the wheelchair events at the four Grand Slams and Super Series events.
BNP Paribas joins the growing family of Wheelchair Tennis Sponsors, as an Official Partner of both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup.
After being held in several Dutch cities over 17 years, the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters is staged in the Netherlands for the last time before moving to a new host venue in Belgium.
The Doubles Masters is also held in Italy for the last time before moving to the Netherlands.
Invacare, previously the title sponsor of the World Team Cup. becomes title sponsor of the Doubles Masters and the Invacare Doubles Masters is staged for the first time at the Frans Otten Stadium, previously the host venue for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, in Amsterdam.
The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters is held in Mechelen, Belgium, for the first time.
NEC celebrated 20 years of partnership with the ITF in 2011. The ITF renewed its sponsorship agreement with NEC Corporation as title sponsor of the Wheelchair Tennis Tour and year-end Wheelchair Tennis Masters for a further two years, 2012-13.
The London 2012 Paralympics Games, the most successful Paralympics ever, saw the Paralympic Tennis Event held at Eton Manor, a brand new tennis centre at the Olympic Park, on 1-8 September. A total of 112 players from 31 countries took part.
The BNP Paribas World Team Cup took place in Asia for the first time, when Seoul, Korea Republic, hosted the ITF's flagship wheelchair tennis team event.
NEC celebrates 20 years as title sponsor of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, with the 2014 event being held in Mission Viejo, California, alongside the ITF Wheelchair Doubles Masters. It is the first time that both the year-end singles andd doubles championships are staged outside of Europe
Meanwhile, as of 31 December 2013, NEC ceases being the title sponsor of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour, but remains an Official Partner of the Tour.
UNIQLO and the ITF jointly announce that they have signed a three-year sponsorship agreement for the ITF’s major wheelchair tennis properties. The agreement sees UNIQLO become the title sponsor of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour and Wheelchair Doubles Masters, as well as an international sponsor of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.
Wheelchair tennis celebrates its 40th Anniversary in 2016.