Get up to speed on Wheelchair Tennis and Shingo Kunieda

Wheelchair Tennis by Jonathan WhiteTomorrow sees the first matches in the Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis at Eton Manor in the Olympic Park. To help you follow the action here’s some facts about the sport and the defending men’s singles champion, Japan’s Shingo Kunieda.

The rules of wheelchair tennis are the same as for ordinary tennis except that the ball can bounce twice and the second bounce can be outside the court. Wheelchair tennis is big business – it’s played at all four of the Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open) and by athletes in over a hundred countries.

There are three categories; Men, Ladies, and Quads (where the impairment affects three or more limbs) and each category has singles and doubles tournaments. Quads players can hold rackets taped to the hand and use electric-powered wheelchairs.

Peter Norfolk, (The Quadfather) is the defending Quad singles champion. He is the most decorated British Wheelchair Tennis player with gold medals from Athens and Beijing.

Esther Vergeer from Holland is the defending ladies singles champion. She has been the world number one wheelchair tennis player since 1999.

Esther Vergeer by Nick StepShingo Kunieda from Japan is the defending mens singles champion. Shingo Kunieda by Xinhua

Here’s five facts about him:

1. He got cancer in his spinal cord when he was nine. The operation to remove it left him without the use of his legs.

2. He won two gold medals at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens (singles and doubles) and a gold (singles) and bronze (doubles) in Beijing in 2008. He has won the Australian Open for the last five years running and the US Open for the last three years. He is a right-hander whose favorite surface is hard court.

3. He injured his right elbow in 2009 but battled on against the pain until February this year when he had an operation to fix it. He went on to win the French Open for the fifth time.

4. He is Japan’s first professional wheelchair tennis player, sponsored by Uniqlo, Honda and BNY Mellon. Dunlop sponsors his rackets and Ox Engineering provide his wheelchair.

5. He’ll play Rafael Medicos Gomez in his first match of the Paralympics on the Centre Court at Eton Manor tomorrow.

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