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Wheelchair Tennis is a technical and tactical sport, very similar to its Olympic counterpart. It is also very popular: Wheelchair Tennis is played by athletes in more than 100 countries.
Peter Norfolk, who adopted the nickname ‘The Quadfather’ in the lead up to Beijing, is the most decorated British Wheelchair Tennis player and was selected as ParalympicsGB's flagbearer at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.
Despite his impressive record, Norfolk competed in London alongside an array of GB talent. In the quad division Britain had two other players alongside Norfolk; Andy Lapthorne - with whom Norfolk partnered in the Quad Doubles event in London, having won the Australian Open Grand Slam in 2011 and 2012 - and Beijing Quad Doubles bronze medallist Jamie Burdekin.
Norfolk and Lapthorne secured the first Wheelchair Tennis medal of London 2012 when they won silver. The pair faced American duo and reigning Paralympic Champions Nicholas Taylor and David Wagner in the gold medal match. Taylor and Wagner took the first set 6-2 before Norfolk and Lapthorne fought back to claim the second set 7-5. But the Americans rallied and triumphed 6-2 in the third set for a third consecutive gold, leaving Britain with silver.
British medal hopes continued in London when women's pair Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley faced Thailand's Ratana Techamaneewat and Sakhorn Khanthasit for bronze. The partnership had previously resulted in some strong results, including reaching the doubles final at The Championships, Wimbledon and they had won their first ITF 1 Series title at the Atlanta Open in May.
The British pair lost the first set in a tie break but they went on to survive match point in the second set before levelling the scores at one set each. Going on to win the final set to take the match, the British duo secured a first ever Paralympic medal for British women in Wheelchair Tennis.
There were also a number of British players competing in the Singles event, including David Phillipson and British number one Gordon Reid, who was taking part at his second Games after qualifying for Beijing at just 16 years old, while Louise Hunt made her Paralympic debut.
- First year at a Paralympic Games:
Seoul 1988 (demonstration sport)
Barcelona 1992 (men's and women's Singles and Doubles)
Athens 2004 (Quad events added)
- Brief history:
- The sport has grown steadily since 1992, when the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour started with just 11 international tournaments. There are currently over 170 tournaments taking place in over 40 countries across the world and Wheelchair Tennis is now a part of all four Grand Slams.
- Eligible impairment groups:
- The Quad event is open to any athletes of either sex whose impairment affects three or more limbs, while the Singles event is open to other classifications.
- London medal table:
1 - Netherlands (two gold, two silver, two bronze)
2 - USA (one gold, one silver, one bronze)
3 - Israel (one gold,zero silver, one bronze)
7 - Great Britain (zero gold, one silver, one bronze)
- GB medals in London:
Peter Norfolk and Andy Lapthorne, silver, men's Quad Doubles
Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley, bronze, women's Doubles
- Did you know:
- Four-time Paralympian Jayant Mistry was British no. 1 for 15 years before retiring from international competition in 2007
- London 2012 venue:
- Eton Manor
- Rio 2016 venue:
- Rio Olympic Park, Barra Zone
Wheelchair Tennis at the Paralympic Games follows International Tennis Federation Rules of Tennis, with a few important differences.
The most significant difference is the ‘two-bounce rule’, which means a player can allow the ball to bounce twice and must return it before a third bounce. The second bounce can be inside or outside the court boundaries.
At the serve, the server must be in a stationary position before serving the ball, but is allowed one push of the wheelchair before striking the ball.
Matches are the best of three sets, with a tie-break settling each set as required.
The Wheelchair Tennis competition consists of six medal events: men’s Singles, women’s Singles, men’s Doubles, women’s Doubles, Quad Singles and Quad Doubles.
Each nation may enter a maximum of four men into men’s Singles, four women into women’s Singles and a maximum of three quad players in the Quad Singles. A maximum of four men and four women may compete as teams in men’s and women’s Doubles and a maximum of two players may compete as a team in the Quad Doubles.
As with all Paralympic sports, classification in Wheelchair Tennis is based on the principle that an athlete has a medically diagnosed, permanent impairment. For Tennis, this impairment must be a mobility-related physical impairment.
Athletes do not necessarily compete against athletes who have the same impairment (e.g. an athlete who is an amputee against another athlete who is an amputee). Instead, athletes whose impairment affects up to two limbs compete in the men’s and women’s ‘open’ competitions, and athletes whose impairment affects three or more limbs compete in the quad division (which is a mixed sex division).