Grand Slam champions and Paralympic medallists among entry as international wheelchair tennis returns to Bolton
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International wheelchair tennis returns to Bolton Arena for the ninth time from Friday this week with Grand Slam champions and Paralympic medallists among more than 100 players from 22 countries due to contest the Bolton Indoor ITF 3 and ITF 2 tournaments from 17-26 February.
Bolton hosted the first two British tournaments on the International Tennis Federation’s UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour for the first time in 2022, when a new Bolton Indoor ITF 3 event preceded the ITF 2 tournament that has attracted many of the world’s leading players since 2014.
This year’s ITF 3 tournament (17-21 February) is set to begin with British No.4 Dermot Bailey heading the home entry for the men’s singles and seeking to at least equal his 2022 performance, when he beat two seeds on his way to the men’s singles final.
The two seeds Bailey beat last year, Frederic Cattaneo of France and Japan’s Kouhei Suzuki, are among five players ranked inside the world’s top 20 that head this year’s men’s entry.
Reigning Wimbledon women’s doubles champion and world No.10 Dana Mathewson leads the entry for the women’s singles. Mathewson reached the finals of both the ITF 3 and ITF 2 tournaments last year, before finishing runner-up to British No.1 Lucy Shuker.
With Shuker only playing next week’s ITF 2 tournament, British No.3 Abbie Breakwell heads the domestic challenge for the women’s ITF 3 draw. 19-year-old Breakwell is one of several rising stars on the various tiers of our Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway who will contest the two tournaments.
Local interest comes from Manchester-based Robyn Love. The two-time Paralympian and World and European medallist in wheelchair basketball began her competitive wheelchair tennis career at last year’s Bolton Indoor ITF 3, winning her opening match and ending 2022 having won her first international singles and doubles titles as a tennis player. Love will begin this year’s Bolton Indoor tournaments at a career-best women’s singles ranking of No.66.
Love is part of our Wheelchair Pro-Potential Programme, along with Breakwell and 20-year-old Greg Slade. Slade will lead the British challenge in the ITF 3 quad singles and doubles events, for players who have an impairment in three or more limbs, as he returns to Bolton Arena a year on from winning the biggest title of his career when partnering fellow Brit Andy Lapthorne to win the Bolton Indoor ITF 2 quad doubles title.
While there are plenty of defending and former singles and doubles champions among this year’s Bolton Indoor entry lists, this year’s ITF 3 event has a new Tournament Director in the form of two-time Paralympian and 2015 Bolton Indoor singles finalist and 2016 doubles champion Louise Hunt Skelley.
Looking ahead to the start of this year’s tournament on Friday, Hunt Skelley said: “As a former doubles champion and singles finalist in Bolton I’m really excited to have been entrusted with this new role by the LTA and I’m loving the new challenge.
Bolton Indoor has aways been a hugely popular early-season tournament for players from across the world and the addition of the ITF 3 event last year has enhanced the range of opportunities available for earning ranking points. With more than 70 players from 21 countries contesting this year’s ITF 3 event it’s going to be another high-quality and fiercely competitive tournament.”
Bolton Indoor ITF 3 concludes with finals on Tuesday 21 February, while the ITF 2 tournament (22-26 February) starts next Wednesday with 22-time Grand Slam champion and two-time former Bolton men’s singles champion Gordon Reid, defending women’s singles champion and three-time Paralympic medallist Shuker and 15-time Grand Slam quad singles and doubles champion Andy Lapthorne among the elite entry.