Rise of the Underdog - Wheelchair Tennis' Fierce Competition
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Parasports World explains the ambitious way to the top of wheelchair tennis. To qualify for Wheelchair Tennis Grand Slams players must rank in the top 8 of the World Rankings.
Wheelchair Tennis has an embarrassment of riches. Next week Wimbledon will play host to the 3rd Grand Slam of the year where it will be contested by 8 of the best players in the world from both the Women’s and Men’s game in the singles, doubles and quad categories. It promises to be one of the most tightly contested tournaments with no guarantees of victory for any of the big names who have made it into the draw.
However, the attention that Wimbledon will gain in one week’s time, where sell-out crowds will see the crème de la (strawberries &) crème that Wheelchair Tennis has to offer, isn’t the only marker of the game’s current strength.
To qualify for Grand Slams players must rank in the top 8 of the World Rankings which opens up a whole new world of elite competition, prize money and sponsorship opportunity. Which made the 30th German Open, positioned a week before the Grand Slam in the UNIQLO tour calendar an interesting proposition.
The Women’s draw included some of the household names which currently sit in the top 8, with the final being contested by French Open winner and Paralympic Gold Medallist Marjolein Buis and World Number 6 Katharina Krüger, with the German winning in two sets.
However the Men’s category saw those competing at Wimbledon understandably avoid the event for fear of fatigue or indeed injury.
Instead the draw was populated mainly by the game’s underdogs and rising stars and in sleepy Lichterfelde Ost, in the suburbs of Berlin, the household-names-in-waiting of the Men’s UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour gathered to scrap for the points which will bring them to the top table.
Large screens showed the action from SW11 in the BTTC Grün Weiss clubhouse and it was impossible to ignore the ‘What if’s’ that hung in the air. Injury, work commitments, sponsorship. All things which can make the difference for these players on the cusp of the big time.
Considering the absence of the top end of the rankings list it would be reasonable to expect a big drop off in quality. However, all that this event confirmed was that Wheelchair Tennis, particulary in the Men's category, is currently in rude health.
There was a mix of experienced hands - such as the eventual winner Frederic Cattaneo and Maikel ‘been there done that’ Scheffers - and young, hungry and patently ambitious upstarts such as Martin De La Puente, Nico Langmann and Daniel Caverzaschi.
Technique, power and grit were hallmarks of the tournament, especially as it entered its latter stages. Epitomised by the semi-final between Daniel Caverzaschi and Maikel Scheffers which ended up as an epic, edged by the Spaniard Caverzaschi in what he called “one of the best performances of my career.”
As the first wheels hit the hallowed turf at Wimbledon next week, the best 8 Wheelchair Tennis players in the world will know that it’s not just what’s in front of them that they need to worry about but also what’s behind them, as the German Open showed, there are a set of underdogs who are going to do all they can to take their place.
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