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· Registered
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was asked this week if I wanted to be on my colleges wheelchair basketball team, although I am actually not in a wheelchair. :eek:

Because I have Cerebral Palsy, which affects my lower body, I guess I am an obvious choice; although I have never touched a basketball in my life. :rolleyes:

As the coach was talking to me, I was thinking "The only sport I would think about playing would be tennis."

Has anyone seen a top ranked wheelchair player?

· Team WTAworld, Senior Member
6,691 Posts
...they showed some wheelchair tennis at Wimby last year during a rain break (...they can keep playing when it's wet...)...mostly was just like tennis, but a little slower...and instead of two bounces, a ball is dead when it bounces outside the court (I think) they have a little more looked quite cool...maybe you should try it... :)

· Registered
4,778 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have to give them a lot of respect. (Both Tennis and BB) It is quite amazing. If I were to try, I might have a chance at being an okay player, since I move very very very very slow. Do you know if there are tournaments for players with ratings of 1.0-3?

Here is an article I found in Tennis Mag...

NETCETERA: Wheelchair Tennis: Chariot of Fire

10/1/00 6:00 PM

Think you could whup the world's best wheelchair player? Go ahead, give it your best shot.

By John Rosengren

From the October 2000 issue of TENNIS Magazine

Just drop-shot him. Then, when you’ve got him at net, lob over his head.'

My fellow Tuesday-night NTRP 4.0s from the Northwest Athletic Club in Minneapolis had figured out exactly how I was going to win my shootout with Texan Stephen Welch. Yes, I reminded them that Welch is the No. 1 wheelchair tennis player in the world (as of August 1, 2000), and that he’ll be defending his U.S. Open Wheelchair title in October. Still, they thought it was a foolproof game plan. Real no-brainer simple. Drop and lob. Lob and drop. The guy’s in a wheelchair.

Run him because, hey, he can’t run.

A week later I’m at Welch’s home court, the Arlington Tennis Center in suburban Fort Worth, and my opponent is there waiting for me. A bone disease has sapped his legs of strength, but his upper body, capable of bench-pressing 365 pounds, is vintage WWF—and he has an attitude to match. 'So you want a piece of me?' he bellows. 'Well, I’ve been looking forward to whupping you.'

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) makes only one concession for wheelchair players: They get two bounces. Otherwise, we play by the same rules.

The two-bounce rule isn’t my initial concern. Seeing him is.

As I peer across the net during the warm-up, it’s almost like nobody’s there. All I see over the net cord is Welch’s beige Polo Sport cap when he’s at the baseline, and his blue eyes just over the tape when he’s at net. He’s 5-foot-7 head to toe, but he isn’t even net-high in the chair, which means that I have to track his surprisingly quick moves through the webbing.

Welch starts off the match serving. From his sitting position, he can’t really boom the serve, and even though an extra-long racquet might give him a little more leverage, he says he doesn’t like the feel. His serves are Sabatini slow, but they kick up shoulder-high, which, combined with my problem of being able to see the ball toss and racquet but not the server, helps him win four straight points and the first game.

Now it’s my turn. I hit a good first serve, hard and flat, which he returns from behind the baseline. I slice a backhand short. Welch, alternating his hands on the wheels like a runner moves his legs, charges to the net. He gets there, smacks a crosscourt winner, and smiles. 'Was that a drop shot you were trying on me?' he asks.

'I wanted to see what kind of wheels you have,' I answer.

Good wheels, I now see. I bring him into the net again, then lift a lob—a solid offensive lob, mind you—that flies over his head. He whips the chair around in a one-eighty and races to the baseline, looking back over his shoulder at the flight of the ball. It bounces once, twice, and then Welch smoothly swings his chair around and hits a mile-high moonball back to me.

This gives him plenty of time to return to his ready position, a few feet behind the baseline. As I take my racquet back, he does the wheelchair player’s version of bouncing on his toes—swiveling the chair with his back to me and rolling toward the back fence, all the while eyeing me over his shoulder. ('A rolling chair is easier to pivot,' he explains later.) When he sees that my shot is headed toward his forehand, Welch pivots his chair on a dime and positions himself to smack a winner down the line.

So much for the Tuesday guys’ drop-and-lob game plan.

Fact is, I seem to have more success moving him side to side, where he’s somewhat laterally disadvantaged, but not as much as someone in the standard hospital-issue or airport-transport chair would be. Welch’s ride, which he built himself, is an upright metal-alloy frame with angled side wheels. It features carbon spokes and titanium rims that look like high-tech bicycle wheels. Those quick pivots of his come courtesy of the chair’s wide wheelbase, and two small front wheels keep him from tipping over.

I’m playing a whirling dervish.

Making my task tougher are his unorthodox strokes. From his seat in the chair, he swipes at low balls like a wheat farmer swinging a sickle, generating weird and wicked sidespins. His super-loopy topspin shots bounce neck high.

I’m also having a small problem adjusting to the double-bounce rule. I angle a forehand volley winner and congratulate myself on its execution. But on the second bounce, Welch is there, sending it back to me. Startled, I can only block the ball, and he’s there again to calmly put it away for the point.

What would have been a clean winner in the Tuesday match back home in Minnesota is just another lost point on this dark Texas night.

Down 0-3 to the wheel-powered dynamo, I change tactics again—I try charging the net on every point and pushing my volleys deep. It works, and I close the gap to 2-3. But then a terrible thought burrows its way into my brain—I’m playing the absolute best player in the world at his game! So of course my shots turn to jelly and he goes up 2-5.

Time for Plan D: Use my slice to trap him in no man’s land, just behind the service line, and then pass him deep to the corners. It works beautifully on the first three points, but he wins the next four—two with wicked slice winners, two off unforced errors. Set point. My back’s against the wall. 'Let’s see what you’re made of,' I tell myself.

I double fault. First set, Welch, 6-2.

We start the second set, and by now I figure I’ve adjusted to all the weird strokes and the double bounces, but the difference between us is his big-match experience—I choke, he converts. Plan E, however, seems sure-fire: camp out at net, cut down his reaction time, and open things up with my angles.

I chip and charge and serve and volley my way to a quick 2-0 lead. Pressuring him like this works! He’s finally making unforced errors. And he hates it when I’m at the net—it causes him to rush his shots and misfire. So I keep pressing; I even come in on a floating second serve.

That’s right, son. Get cocky, why don’t ya.

Welch starts showing me the stuff champions are made of. He sees I’m favoring my backhand side, so he starts smacking shots down the forehand lane. If I volley short, he attacks it on the first bounce and whips a winner past me.

We stay on serve: 5-4, then 6-5. Desperately trying to pull this set out, I remember what Tim Burke, my club pro back in Minneapolis, told me about how to beat wheelchair players—go right at the chair with hard smashes. The chair is considered an extension of his body, so I’d get the point.

Seems cheap and lowdown, but doggone it, I need this set! So on the next exchange, which brings us both up to net, I take aim at the chair and his big-target chest. Unfortunately, I forget that they’re both below the net line, and—thwack—the ball hits the net cord and snaps back at me. At the next opportunity I aim higher, but the ball sails long. I try again. But like a goalie guarding the net, he protects the chair with his racquet and volleys off a winner.

It’s 6-6. I figure if I can win this second-set tiebreak, I might out-stamina him in the third. But he ratchets his play up another notch and soon I’m facing match points at 3-6. Well, at least I’m serving two. Deep breath. Stick with what’s working: Serve, hit deep, and charge the net.

But what does Welch do? He jumps on my first serve with the vengeance of Agassi unchained and rips a shot past my outstretched racquet. As he predicted, I have been whupped.

We retreat to a local Tex-Mex restaurant for the post-match analysis. Welch tells me that when he’s playing other wheelchair players, his strategy is to move them around the court; with the able-bodied, it’s to put the ball away quickly.

I ask him if I ever had him worried, and he says, Yeah, maybe when I took the 2-0 second-set lead.

'You were dictating for a while, and that gave me a real bad feeling,' he says. 'I felt like a pitcher just dishing up balls.' Yeah, right.

I’m back in Minneapolis. It’s Tuesday night. Everybody in my regular group wants to know: 'How’d you do against the wheelchair guy?'

'Lost in straight sets.'

They exchange dumbfounded looks.

'So why didn’t you just drop shot him, like we told you?'

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I believe it was the #1 and #2 wheelchair players in Canada who played at the Monica/Anna exhibition in December. They were pretty entertaining to watch, allowed more than one bounce but they rallied pretty good. I believe the wheelchairs are designed to turn more easily than regular ones.

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Yuppers I say give it a go. :wavey:

I play every year at the tournament in Wodonga at the end of the year. For those that don't know Albury-Wodonga is in Australia.

Able-Bodied players played on the grass and the wheelchair tennis was on the dirt courts. They were competitive on the court...but once they were off the court they were getting as tanked at the bar as anyone there.

Wheelchair tennis is a little bizarre to watch for the first few minutes, but once you get what is happening it's a terrific game to watch and very skillful.

Watching them take themselves over the causeway between Wodonga and Albury to go out clubbing for the night (cans of assorted drinks onboard their chair!!) still lingers in my mind. I still write with Mike who I met there, he loves his sure you would too. :wavey:

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Yuppers....Daniella DiToro.....forget how many Australian Wheelchair Opens she was a few I know that much. Was world #1 for a few years...hard to know for sure when the sport gets no coverage. The only coverage is when you read sports results in the back of the Herald Sun. It deserves better....IMO :wavey:
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