Wheelchair Tennis

An adaptation of one of the most popular sports in the world, Wheelchair Tennis appeared in 1976 in the United States. In January of that year, the American acrobatic skiing athlete Brad Parks suffered an accident during a warm-up jump and was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury.

During rehabilitation, Parks heard about Jeff Minnenbraker, an athlete from Los Angeles who was trying to play Tennis in a wheelchair, but allowing the ball to bounce twice on the court. Months later, they met and began discussing the possibility of people with disabilities playing  the sport.

In 1977, Parks customised his own chair and began to promote Wheelchair Tennis in exhibition matches with Minnenbraker. Three years later, there were more than 300 Wheelchair Tennis players in the United States and the first regulatory body of the sport was created, in partnership with the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

The new sport reached Europe and Asia in the following years, and in 1988 Wheelchair Tennis was played as an exhibition sport at the Paralympic Games in Seoul, in South Korea. In the same year, the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation was founded (IWTF).

The definitive entry into the Paralympic programme happened in Barcelona, in 1992. In addition to taking part in the Games, Wheelchair Tennis has a world circuit, with over 100 tournaments and world rankings for men and women in singles and doubles, under the auspices of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), responsible for the sport nowadays.

The functional classification of Wheelchair Tennis is less complex if compared to sports like Swimming. Participants are categorised according to ability - thus, people with spinal cord injuries and amputations can compete with each other.

One of the main differences with the conventional sport is the two-bounce rule, that allows the wheelchair athlete to return the ball to the other side before it touches the ground only for the third time. The wheelchairs used are sports chairs, with wheels adapted to offer more balance and mobility. The rackets and balls are the same.