Tennis Ireland is an official member of the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation. Wheelchair Tennis was founded in 1976 when Brad Parks first hit a tennis ball from a wheelchair and realised the potential of this new sport. Still one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the world, wheelchair tennis integrates very easily with the able-bodied game since it can be played on any regular tennis court, with no modifications to rackets and balls. Wheelchair tennis follows the same rules as able-bodied tennis as endorsed by the ITF, with the only exception being that the wheelchair tennis player is allowed two bounces of the ball.
The beauty of wheelchair tennis is that you can play with your able bodied family and friends as well as other wheelchair players. Under the rules of tennis the wheelchair players are permitted two bounces and the able bodied players one but when you are practising you can play to your own rules to suit the standard of the players on the court.
When you start playing you do not require a sports wheelchair. You can play in a day chair. You may wish to strap yourself into the chair to improve your stability. Straps can be used around the waist, knees and ankles, depending on the players balance.
To be eligible to compete, a player must have a medically diagnosed permanent mobility related physical disability which must result in a substantial loss of function in one or both lower extremities.
There are a number of Wheelchair Tennis events that take place in Ireland throughout the year including the Irish Wheelchair Tennis Championships which is played in August of each year.
THE RULES OF WHEELCHAIR TENNIS
The game of wheelchair tennis follows the ITF Rules of Tennis with the following exceptions:
A) THE TWO-BOUNCE RULE
The wheelchair tennis player is allowed two bounces of the ball. The player must return the ball before it hits the ground a third time. The second bounce can be either in or out of the court boundaries.
B) THE WHEELCHAIR
The wheelchair is considered part of the body and all applicable Rules which apply to a player’s body shall apply to the wheelchair.
C) THE SERVICE
The service shall be delivered in the following manner:
- Immediately before commencing the serve, the server shall be in a stationary position. The server shall then be allowed one push before striking the ball.
- The server shall throughout the delivery of the service not touch with any wheel, any area other than that behind the baseline within the imaginary extension of the centre mark and sideline.
- If conventional methods for the service are physically impossible for a quadriplegic player, then the player or an individual may drop the ball for such a player. However, the same method of serving must be used each time.
D) PLAYER LOSES POINT
A player loses a point if:
- He fails to return the ball before it has touched the ground three times.
- Subject to rule e) below. He uses any part of his feet or lower extremities as brakes or as stabilisers while delivering service, stroking a ball, turning or stopping against the ground or against any wheel while the ball is in play.
- He fails to keep one buttock in contact with his wheelchair seat when contacting the ball.
E) PROPELLING THE CHAIR WITH THE FOOT
- If due to lack of capacity a player is unable to propel the wheelchair via the wheel then he may propel the wheelchair using one foot.
- Even if in accordance with rule e) i. above a player is permitted to propel the chair using one foot, no part of the player’s foot may be in contact with the ground:
- during the forward motion of the swing, including when the racket strikes the ball;
- from the initiation of the service motion until the racket strikes the ball.
- A player in breach of this Rule shall lose a point.
F) WHEELCHAIR/ABLE-BODIED TENNIS
Where a wheelchair tennis player is playing with or against an able-bodied person in singles and doubles, the Rules of Wheelchair Tennis shall apply for the wheelchair player while the Rules of Tennis for able-bodied tennis shall apply for the able-bodied player. In this instance, the wheelchair player is allowed two bounces while the able-bodied player is allowed only one bounce.