GB disability tennis teams lead the world in 2019
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It’s been an astonishing year for the LTA’s national disability tennis squads – after yet more success in Turkey and Australia last week, Great Britain has become the only nation in the world to win trophies and medals at all four of the major international disability tennis tournaments this year.
The success started in May at the 2019 Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup in Israel with what was our best ever performance in the 35 year history of the event. The men’s team of Alfie Hewett (Norfolk), Gordon Reid (Scotland) and Dermot Bailey (Northamptonshire) were crowned world champions, with the juniors claiming silver and the women’s team completing a hat-trick of British medals with bronze.
Next on agenda was June’s 2019 International Blind Tennis Tournament in Spain, where Rosie Pybus (Durham & Cleveland), Rachel Morgan (Middlesex) and Amanda Large (Lancashire) all claimed world titles in their sight categories as Great Britain won three golds, two silver and two bronze medals.
With ambitions to become a Paralympic sport in the future, visually impaired tennis is adapted from the full court version to a smaller court, with a lower net. It also uses an audible ball so players can hear it bounce and being hit, and, depending on an individual’s sight level, they can also be allowed up to three bounces before they must return it back to their opponent.
The major event in learning disability tennis this year was October’s 2019 INAS Global Games in Brisbane, Australia, where Great Britain returned home with an amazing seven medals, including four golds. Anna McBride (Nottinghamshire) and Dominic Iannotti (Scotland) won the women’s and men’s singles respectively, with the duo also taking the mixed doubles crown and Iannotti partnering Fabrice Higgins (Lancashire) to take the men’s team title.
Taking place every four years, the INAS Global Games are the world’s biggest sports event for athletes with an intellectual impairment, with almost 1,000 athletes across 47 countries competing for victory in a range of sports. Our team’s entry into the Games is enabled through strong collaboration between the LTA and the UK Sports Association (UKSA), the official Great Britain member of INAS.
Completing the set of outstanding success in 2019 was our deaf tennis team at the 2019 World Deaf Tennis Championships in Turkey earlier this month. Esah Hayat (Middlesex) and Phoebe Suthers (Yorkshire) won the junior mixed doubles world title as the Great Britain team returned home with one gold, three silvers and a bronze medal – our best ever performance at this level and the first time Great Britain has won senior medals at the world championships.
The success at international level in 2019 is complemented by continuing growth in grassroots participation in tennis among disabled people. This year has seen record numbers of disabled people picking up a racket and enjoying tennis as part of the LTA’s Open Court programme. This activity sees us support and promote disability tennis in Great Britain through regular weekly and monthly sessions across the country, subsidising camps to help players develop their skills and running a series of regional and national tournaments for players of all abilities.
Speaking about the teams’ success, LTA Disability Tennis Competitions Co-ordinator Claire McCulloch said:
“The outstanding performances of our teams on the international stage this year have really shown that Great Britain is one of the leading nations in the world for disability tennis, and we are incredibly proud of them all. Their success helps us to show that tennis can be a sport for anyone, and our thanks go to everyone involved in heling them achieve that.
"Our disability programme is one of the biggest across any sport with record numbers of disabled people currently playing across our network of venues. We hope the teams’ success will help to inspire even more people to pick up a racket and get involved with one of the many disability tennis sessions supported by the LTA across Great Britain.”