Wimbledon champions and Tokyo Paralympians set for British Open
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Seven of the nine wheelchair players crowned singles or doubles champions at Wimbledon are among the world class line-up for the British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, which takes place behind closed doors at the Nottingham Tennis Centre on 20-25 July.
One of just six Super Series events on the ITF’s UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the last major tournament before the Tokyo Paralympics, this year’s entry features 39 Tokyo-bound players across the men’s, women’s and quad draws, including Alfie Hewett, Gordon Reid, Dermot Bailey, Jordanne Whiley, Lucy Shuker, Andy Lapthorne and Antony Cotterill, the seven players selected to represent Paralympics GB in Tokyo.
World No.2 Hewett and World No.5 Reid will be among the leading contenders for men’s singles and doubles honours, with seven-time British Open champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan and new Wimbledon champion Joachim Gerard of Belgium also among the main protagonists as 18 of the world’s top 20 men’s players vie for honours.
Rio Paralympic champion Reid, runner-up to Gerard in the men’s singles at Wimbledon the day after partnering Hewett to their 12th Grand Slam title together, said: “The British Open is where I won some of my early big titles as a junior and it was the first major title for me and Alfie as a pair back in 2015, so I’ve got some great memories from Nottingham.
“On the back of the success of Wimbledon, we’ll miss the home crowds, but this week will be added preparation for Tokyo and hopefully fans will tune in on the live stream to support us."
After winning her fifth women’s doubles title and reaching her second women’s singles semi-final at Wimbledon, Whiley returns to Nottingham for just the second time since being crowned back-to-back British Open champion in 2015 and 2016 and then becoming a mum in 2018.
The World No.4 will be among the main contenders for singles and doubles honours, alongside the likes of fellow Brit Lucy Shuker and Dutch world No.1 Diede de Groot and world No.3 Aniek van Koot. Having beaten Van Koot to reach the singles semis at Wimbledon, where fellow Brit and Wimbledon doubles runners-up Shuker also enjoyed her first career win over De Groot and Van Koot as a doubles partnership.
“The British Open has some special memories for me as a player and as one of the biggest and nearest tournaments to home for me it’s a tournament I really look forward to,” Whiley said.
“Naturally it’s going to have a slightly different feel this year, but I hope to reproduce my Wimbledon form on the hard courts in Nottingham and earn some more big performances in singles and doubles ahead of Tokyo.”
World No.3 ranked Brit and three-time Paralympic medallist Lapthorne heads the home entry for the quad singles and will partner Cotterill in the quad doubles. Lapthorne will hope to improve on his appearance in his fifth British Open singles final in 2019, when young Dutchman Niels Vink claimed his first career Super Series title.
Vink, fellow Dutchman, World No.2 and Wimbledon finalist Sam Schroder and Japan’s Koji Sugeno are likely to be the biggest challengers for the Brits and for the USA’s four-time British Open champion David Wagner. Lapthorne partnered Wagner to win his second Wimbledon doubles title this year as they also became the first quad doubles partnership to complete a career Grand Sam.
Although narrowly missing out on qualification for Tokyo, Nottinghamshire’s James Shaw will also be out to impress against those quad singles players ranked above him as he sets his sights on the Paris 2024 Paralympics.
With the British Open singles and doubles finals taking place across the weekend of 24 and 25 July, the last day of the Super Series event also sees the first of two days of competition for the British Open Junior Wheelchair Tennis Championships, which will see leading Brits Ben Bartram, Dahnon Ward, Abbie Breakwell and Ruby Bishop vying for the titles after also lining up against senior competition earlier in the week.
The LTA has recently launched a campaign to inspire more people to play wheelchair tennis, and find future champions. The LTA Wheelchair Talent Initiative is made of up seven taster days at venues across the UK, with activities catering to all skill levels. The campaign is made possible thanks to the governing body’s collaboration with The National Lottery, which is the official partner of the LTA Wheelchair Performance Pathway.
As part of the partnership, The National Lottery provides crucial support to the current elite level of the sport as they prepare for Tokyo 2020 and also looks to encourage more juniors, men, women and quads to pick up a racket for the first time, feeding into one of the most successful disability sport programmes in the UK.