A guide to wheelchair tennis | ITF (2024)

Article 06 May 2020

06 May 2020

World Team Cup

We continue our wheelchair tennis content series during the week that would have been the 2020 BNP Paribas World Team Cup by looking at the roots of the sport as well as answering some commonly asked questions about the rules and the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

History of the sport

Wheelchair tennis was founded in 1976 when Brad Parks first hit a tennis ball from a wheelchair and realised the potential of the sport. Former acrobat skier Parks suffered an injury which left him paraplegic but met wheelchair athlete Jeff Minnenbraker during his rehab and the two started discussing the possibilities of wheelchair tennis.

In early 1980, the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis (NFWT) was formed with Brad Parks, David Saltz, Jim Worth and Dave Kiley as the first Board of Directors.

The Wheelchair Tennis Players Association was formed the following year and the first “Grand Prix Circuit” was established consisting of a series of four major events in different cities across USA.

France became the first country in Europe to put a wheelchair tennis programme in place in 1982. Popular French professional players such as Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte assisted with high profile up-down exhibitions where a wheelchair tennis player teams up with a non-disabledpartner.

In 1987 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.

Soon after the ITF was approached to assist in developing an international governing body for wheelchair tennis, which sparked the interest of ITF Director of Development, Doug MacCurdy and Brian Tobin, Executive Vice President of the ITF.

On Monday 10 October 1988, the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation (IWTF) was 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 was included in the Paralympics in Seoul, South Korea with four men and four women competing. The success of this event led to wheelchair tennis being included in the 1992 Paralympic Games.

In 1991 NEC joined as a major sponsor of the IWTF, providing funding to formalise the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour and Ranking, along with a host of other programmes.

Prize money was awarded at the US Open for the first time and the Wheelchair Tennis World Champions were recognised by the ITF for the first time alongside theirnon-disabled counterparts.

The first formalised ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour began in 1992, consisting of 11 international tournaments.

The inaugural NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters took place in Eindhoven, Netherlands in 1994, with the top eight men’s and women’s players competing.

On 1 January 1998 the IWTF was 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 first official quad ranking was published in 1998 and a quad event is included at the World Team Cup for the first time.

In 2000 a junior division was included at the Invacare World Team Cup for the first time, and the first NEC Wheelchair Tennis Doubles Masters event was staged in conjunction with the NEC Masters in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

In 2004 the Johann Cruyff Foundation became an ITF Wheelchair Tennis Partner, to support the further development of an international junior wheelchair tennis programme.

The London 2012 ParalympicsGames,the mostsuccessful 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.

TheBNP Paribas World TeamCuptook place in Asia for the first time, when Seoul, Korea Republic, hosted the ITF's flagship wheelchair tennis team event.

In 2014 became 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.

Rules of wheelchair tennis

Still one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the world, wheelchair tennis integrates very easily with the non-disabled game since it can be played on any regular tennis court, with no modifications to the size of the court or the size of rackets or balls.

There are some exceptions to the Rules of Tennis that apply only to wheelchair tennis. These include:

The Two Bounce Rule – wheelchair tennis players are allowed two bounces of the ball. Players must return the ball before it bounces a third time. The second bounce can be either in or out of the court boundaries.

Players also lose a point if they use any part of their feet or lower extremities against the ground or against any wheel while delivering service, striking a ball, turning or stopping while the ball is in play or if they fail to keep one buttock in contact with the wheelchair when contacting the ball.

For more information on the rules of wheelchair tennis download the ITF’s Rule of Tennis app. To download the app, search ‘Rules of Tennis’ onGoogle Playfor Android devices or theApp Storeon Apple devices.

The UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour

Wheelchair tennis has an international tour. The ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour originated in 1992 with 11 international tournaments, but has grown in size and popularity with currently over 150 events taking place all over the world. UNIQLO became the title sponsor of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour in June 2014. Click here to find out more about the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

To be eligible to compete, a player must have a medically diagnosed permanent mobility related physical disability which must result in a substantial loss of function in one or both lower extremities.

Wheelchair tennis has been part of the Paralympic Games since 1992 and wheelchair tennis events have been played at all four Grand Slams since 2007.

A guide to wheelchair tennis | ITF (2024)
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