Tennis is a great summer sport to watch and fun to play too. This is my beginners guide on how to play wheelchair tennis.
My First Time
I grew up watching my Mum play social tennis. We would also have a casual hit during school holidays by hiring the local tennis court or playing at a friends tennis court.
In late primary school I enjoyed playing tennis on a school excursion and received comments from staff that I wasn’t too bad at it. I decided to have some coaching after school once a week. I had to stop over summer because of the heat.
Returning to Play
When I moved to Sydney last year I went to a Return2Sport come and try day on wheelchair tennis. I was the only person who registered and turned up. I was given personal lessons with a coach and former world number one wheelchair tennis player, David Hall. I had a lot of fun, received comments on how well I was doing and encouraged to continue.
I took up the offer and continued to have coaching once a week. I have only recently stopped due to the summers heat.
The wheelchair is considered part of the body and the player must be seated at all times. There are many different types of basketball wheelchair and it takes time to find the right fit. Put simply, it has two sloped wheelchair either side with push rims to propel the chair and allow the player to swing a racket without hitting anything, two standard wheels at the front, some also have 1-2 tip wheels at the back to prevent flipping backwards. It’s common to see seating sloping forward to prevent hitting the legs when swinging the racket. Straps can be used to secure the player to the chair.
It takes practice to get used to pushing a tennis wheelchair. The wheelchair should move really easily and get used to how easily it turns. When you are starting to get the hang of how to push a wheelchair before adding a racket and ball. It takes practice to be able to hold a racket and have hands on the push rims ready to move or hit the ball.
Rules of Play
Wheelchair tennis is similar to able-bodied tennis with no changes made to the court size, racket size and ball size. There are different classifications based on disability.
The difference is there is a two bounce rule. The wheelchair player is allowed to return the ball after two bounced but before it bounces for a third time. The second bounce can be either in or out of the court boundaries.
When playing against an able-bodied player the wheelchair tennis rules (two bounce rule) only applies to the player in the wheelchair.
If you live in NSW or ACT then I encourage you to become a member of Wheelchair Sports New South Wales (WS NSW). Membership benefits include hiring a tennis wheelchair, access to social events and competitions. If you live in other states and territories then I encourage you to look up local organisations and try wheelchair tennis.
If you live in Sydney then I also encourage you to get in touch with Royal Rehab Return2Sport to make the most of come and try days at their courts. Get in touch to also be put in touch with wheelchair tennis coaches and access to their courts.
For further information on wheelchair tennis including classifications visit Tennis Australia, Australian Paralympic Committee and International Tennis Federation.