Wheelchair tennis was introduced as a demonstration sport at Seoul in 1988 and became a full medal sport at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics Games. The players use specially designed wheelchairs and the ball may bounce twice, the second of which can occur outside of the court.
The Quad division (for players with quadriplegia) made its Paralympic Games debut in Athens in 2004, where Peter Norfolk MBE won the singles to become Great Britain’s first ever Paralympic Games gold medallist in the tennis.
As in lawn tennis, there are events for men’s and women’s singles and doubles plus quad singles and quad doubles. There are no separate men’s or women’s events in Quads and it is sometimes referred to as “Mixed”. Quads players are permitted to hold rackets taped to the hand and use electric-powered wheelchairs.
Wheelchair Tennis was founded in 1976 by Brad Parks and Jeff Minnenbraker in the USA. The sport rapidly became popular and in 1980, the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis (NFWT) was formed with Parks on the board of directors. In 1981 France became the first European nation to participate in the sport and two years later hosted the first international tournament. The European Wheelchair Tennis Federation was founded in 1985 and in 1988 the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation was formed with Parks as president. The 2000 Paralympics in Sydney boosted public awareness to such an extent that it led to the introduction of the sport to Grand Slams of pedestrian tennis. The Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open and US Open all now have a wheelchair tennis category.
International tournaments are organised by the International Tennis Federation as a NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour. There are four top-ranked major tournaments called the Super Series; Australian Open, British Open, Japan Open and US Open. The World Team Cup is an international team event held annually. The season is concluded with the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Singles Masters and Camozzi Doubles Masters tournaments in which only the top-ranked players in the world can compete.
The Netherlands have been a dominant force at major tournaments and has several of the world’s finest players including Grand Slam and Paralympic champions Robin Ammerlaan, Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan.
Peter Robert Norfolk OBE suffered a motorbike accident at the age of 19 which left him paraplegic. He was the first person ever to win a Paralympic medal for Britain in tennis when he took gold in the quads singles at the 2004 games in Athens and also claimed silver with Mark Eccleston in the doubles. In Beijing four years later, he repeated his success in the singles event and this time added a bronze in the doubles with Jamie Burdekin. Norfolk has won a total of thirteen Super Series titles in all. He is currently vying for the world number 1 spot with David Wagner of the USA. Wagner took silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008 in the singles but claimed gold in both doubles competitions.