Opinion / Sports

Could there be Wheelchair Tennis Singles at Wimbledon in 2016?

Men’s Wheelchair Singles world number three Gordon Reid has told The Wee G of his cautious optimism that the Wimbledon championships may play host to a Wheelchair Singles Championships before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Speaking as part of a feature interview with The Wee G, the Glasgow based British Number One Reid spoke of his discussions with All England Club officials, but tempered the optimism with previous experience over the last 10 years.

“I spoke to one of the board members who said that they are looking to get [Wheelchair singles] in before Rio 2016.

“So that’s quite positive that they are thinking about us, but at the same time I know there are some players who have been around for a while have been trying to fight for a singles tournament and it hasn’t happened yet, so I’m kind of not holding my breath until it happens.”

Video by Mark Simpson

Wheelchair Tennis has been part of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon since 2002. It is a doubles only event however, where the top three wheelchair doubles teams in the World qualify automatically for four team tournament, with the fourth team chosen by the tournament organisers as a wildcard.

This contrasts to the other three major Grand Slam events in New York, Melbourne and Paris, which each host a singles event featuring eight of the world’s best wheelchair tennis players. The Roland Garros event in Paris was the last of those three events to introduce Wheelchair Singles in 2007, yet 7 years later there is still no prospect of a similar event taking place in London.

Photograph from Flickr – Simon & Vicki

The problem for Wimbledon is one of scheduling. Johnny Perkins, spokesman for the All England Lawn Tennis Club that administers the tournaments, explained to The Wee G why the tournament has so far only been able to host doubles tennis on such a limited scale when compared with able bodied competition: “It is a regular item of discussion with the Tennis Foundation, the body which looks after wheelchair tennis in the UK, to look at all the practicalities including the number of courts available in any given year.

“This year for example because of Master Plan construction, we have 17 instead of 19 Championships’ courts available.”

Perkins also highlighted the difficulties of playing in a wheelchair on grass, which contributed to the London 2012 Paralympic tennis tournament being held on the Eton Manor hard court rather than the grass of Wimbledon: “It is recognised however there were inherent problems with playing singles on grass and it was accepted by the players themselves that to play on grass requires more strength and physical effort than on hard courts.”

 

Reid has taken part in the doubles final at Wimbledon twice, but is yet to taste success in the tournament. For the 22 year old from Helensburgh, the focus is on singles for 2014.

His eyes lit up when discussing the experience of playing at Wimbledon: “For me, growing up in Britain as a tennis fan, Wimbledon was the tournament that everybody watches.

“It’s the one that I’ve seen all my childhood heroes playing and winning, so to be able to compete there in singles in front of a home crowd would be pretty cool.

“I’m hoping they might bring that in in the next few years.”

Follow Mark on Twitter @Markyboy89

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