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Abbie Breakwell hits a forehand
Diversity and inclusion

British players take on Wheelie Physical Challenge


With grass roots tennis resuming in England this week and the LTA reiterating its commitment to helping disabled people get active and play tennis through its sector-leading Open Court programme, the tennis community is getting behind the ‘Wheelie Physical Challenge’, a new fundraising drive from tennis charity the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust.

The challenge has been created to help the charity continue its work to support and facilitate disabled people to get on court, enjoy the game and realise their potential across all aspects of tennis. While the DMTT is among many charities to have seen their income streams severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic this year, for its latest fundraising initiative the Trust has enlisted the support of people from across the tennis community, including a number of current grassroots and elite players.

Formed in 1997, the Trust is named after the late Dan Maskell, affectionately known to many as the ‘The Voice of Wimbledon’, who was passionate about rehabilitation through sport. For over 20 years the DMTT has helped hundreds of wheelchair, deaf, visually impaired and learning disabled players, as well as tennis clubs, groups and programme to access and provide tennis though funding and access tennis wheelchairs, equipment and grants to help facilitate disabled people not just as players, but also as coaches.

What’s the challenge?

The ‘Wheelie Physical Challenge’ asks wheelchair users to push either 5km or 2km to raise much-needed funds to help others on their tennis pathway. Non-wheelchair users are being encouraged to take on the challenge too, while there are also modified versions of the challenge specifically for visually impaired, deaf and learning disability players.

Visually impaired players are being challenged to bounce a ball on their racket for 20 minutes, with deaf and learning disability players challenged to do a 5km run with a twist - balancing a ball their your racket the whole way!

One of the first to complete their Challenge was Lewis Fletcher, part of the LTA’s GB Deaf Tennis squad and former Tennis Wiltshire Coach of the Year.

The multi medal-winning deaf tennis player is said:"The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust were amazing in my early years, both as a player and coach.

I’ve had grants to help pay for extra lessons, tournament entries and general equipment needs over the years. Bigger grants went towards one of my coaching qualifications.

All these helped enormously by taking pressure off but, more importantly, by allowing me to access and further my tennis, both as a player and coach. It is a real privilege to have recently been asked to become an ambassador for the Trust.”

Currently among the shortlisted nominees for Deaf Sport Personality of the Year, Lewis took his ‘Challenge’ to the roads around his home in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, running 5km with a ball balanced on his racket, closely watched by his wife Catherine, the LTA’s National Deaf Tennis Coach.

Which other players are involved?

Others signed up for the challenge include 12-time Grand Slam champion Jordanne Whiley, fellow Paralympic medallist Lucy Shuker and multi medal-winning learning disability star and Special Olympian Lily Mills. Meanwhile, a group of players on the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme who have also been supported by the DMTT on their tennis journeys, are set to embark on their 5km pushes in the coming days.

“The Dan Maskell Tennis Trust have helped me with funding individual lessons and have therefore helped me reached my goals,” said Abbie Breakwell, part of the ‘Loughborough Legends’ group.

“Without their help I wouldn’t have achieved all that I have so far in my career. I’ve now had funding off them twice to help with coaching costs and it helps me focus on the quality of my training rather than having to worry about finances.”

How can I take on the challenge or donate to support those doing it?

You can find out more about the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust and supporting the Wheelie Physical Challenge: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/DMTTPhysicalChallenge

Abbie is one of nine new ambassadors named by the Trust earlier this year. They also include Rosie Pybus, multiple medallist at international level and across the LTA’s Visually Impaired National Series of tournaments. Rosie started playing visually impaired tennis in 2010 and Is a Level 2 LTA accredited coach who is. She is passionate about encouraging others to start playing VI tennis.

“I first heard about the Dan Maskell Trust through my close friend Wendy Glasper, who is also an ambassador,” said Abbie.

“I initially used my funding for one-to-one coaching sessions in Middlesbrough when I first started and, more recently, I had some funding for more one-to-one sessions ahead of our world championships, which enabled me to be as best prepared as I could be to play what turned out to be some of the best tennis I’ve ever played and I came home with a gold medal. To have a sport-specific organisation that can support financially in the way that the Dan Maskell Trust does is just incredible, and it opens up so many more opportunities.”

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