Ever since Stefan Olsson won the second edition of Wimbledon’s Wheelchair singles event, the latter half of 2017 has seen wheelchair tennis stacking up a lot of ‘firsts’ in its 40 year history
. So here are the developments that show the gradual increase in the reach of wheelchair tennis, and also how players are now being awarded for their valiant efforts and athleticism on a wheelchair.
1) Busra Un – Turkey’s pride
When she was 6 months old, she was physically disabled. Till the age of 14, she played table tennis fluently. At 15, she took up wheelchair tennis. Busra Un, was about to make her country proud. In 2016, she became Turkey’s first representative in Paralympics. She has won a lot of local tournaments but the biggest win of her career came in late October this year when she won the ITF’s Futures tournament in Wrexham in both the singles and doubles category. She is ranked 71 right now, but was ranked as high as 30 before.
2) Evans Maripa – African hero
Born with a congenital amputation, Evans Maripa is Africa’s No.1 wheelchair tennis player and is now ranked among the top 12 players in the world. He has won couple of titles in Israel and a title in his hometown as well. He is also the current Polish Open champion in doubles.
3) Uniqlo Spirit Award
In mid-October Uniqlo and the ITF introduced the Uniqlo Spirit Award which will recognize those wheelchair tennis players whose efforts have been worthy, in not only for earning their own accolades, but also promoting wheelchair tennis by their inspiring aura. A panel will select the nominations and UNIQLO will select the winner and runner-up. The winner will receive US $5000 and the runner-up will get a UNIQLO clothing kit. The result of the first UNIQLO Spirit Award will be announced in November.
4) British players shine at US Open 2017
Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett became the first players to contest an all-British semifinal in wheelchair tennis history, at the US Open. Alfie Hewett won the match, but was defeated by Stephane Houdet in the finals. However, both Reid and Hewett were on the same side of the net in doubles and went on to win the championship match.
5) Canberra Wheelchair Tennis Open
Canberra hosted an ITF Futures tournament for the first time this year, which lasted for three days. The Australian capital saw Keegan Oh-Chee win the men’s wheelchair singles and Janine Watson win the women’s wheelchair singles.
With steady strides being made in wheelchair tennis, we expect the circuit to become more and more competitive in the years to follow.