In late July, Support through Sport UK's Claire and Rhian headed to Nottingham Tennis Centre to cover the Wheelchair Tennis British Open. Claire reports back ...
This was my first time covering wheelchair tennis. I had high expectations, having heard wonderful things about the standard and talent involved in the game, and the day really didn't disappoint.
The first match was the women's doubles finals and, British weather being British weather, it was held indoors. Jiske Griffioen and Aniek van Koot took on Sabine Ellerbrock and Kgothatso Montjane. The match was incredibly fast paced, featuring a multitude of breath taking, 'edge of your seats' points. The Griffioen and van Koot pairing, fresh from Wimbledon, pulled out all the stops on the day, taking the title with a 6-0, 6-3 win. We managed to catch up with them after their win:
Congratulations on the win, what an exciting game. How did you feel going into the match today?
Van Koot: It's the final of the super series event, which is always exciting and the pressure was on. We were nervous but we wanted to do well and I think it was a great match for us today with a great feeling.
Griffioen: We were both tired after a long summer season, and this is the last tournament before our break - so to end with this match is really good, ending on a high.
What would you say to people looking to get into this fantastic sport?
Griffioen: I think it's very important to put yourself out there, find the sports you are interested in and compete and have fun and do the best you can do because it's so much fun.
Van Koot: There is nothing you can't do. Get outside and see your possibilities and don't believe things are not possible because they are.
The second match of the day was the men's singles final between Stephane Houdet of France and Belgium's Joachim Gerard. It was another gripping game and Houdet’s unique style of kneeling upright in his chair, rather than sitting, was testament to the incredible athleticism of these sportsmen and women. The first set went to Gerard but Houdet fought back hard with some strong serves and fast manoeuvres to win 6-7 (6), 6-1, 7-6(5).
Last up was the men's quads doubles final between the British pairing of Jamie Burdekin and Andy Lapthorne and the USA’s Nick Taylor and David Wagner. Whiilst obviously routing for the British pair, the Americans were outstanding. Taylor's unique style of serving with his feet whilst steering his power chair complimented Wagner's raw talent and silky racquet skills. It was an inspiring match that culminated in a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win for the US team. We were extremely lucky to be able to chat to the winning pair after the game:
Congratulations on the win today, a very inspiring game for us, how did you feel going into it?
Taylor: I knew this was going to be a tough match. The British pair beat us earlier this year in Baton Rouge. They are a very good team and very smart, very familiar with us and they know what to do. So I knew it would be a tough match but I knew if we played well we could get through it.
Wagner: I think we felt good, we had a game plan. We had a tough match in the semi-finals and we knew this wasn't going to be easy - so we were ready and it was definitely a challenge but we had our game plan and we worked as a team. We try to play the best we can every time we can, which worked.
We've been really inspired and entertained today, what with such talent on display ...
Wagner: that's really cool that we can do that. And one of the great things about tennis, especially wheelchair tennis, is that you can do it with the able bodied players as well as - it doesn't have to be wheelchair on wheelchair, it can be wheelchair against standing. You can have three or four people mixed together at one time. It's full integration, it's fantastic.
What would you say to young people looking to get into the sport?
Taylor: You have got to be willing to try it and not succeed straight away, but that's ok. When I first started I could only hit a ball five feet, I was only thirteen years only and that was all I could do. But I kept going and found a way to get a little stronger and a little better and found a way to level up. It took a lot of determination. You are going to fail in the beginning but as long as you don't completely quit you are not failing.
Wagner: If you are coming in first time just try it, you are going to love it, it's a tough sport to begin with but try your best and give it your all and your best efforts. Smile and have fun and you will really enjoy it.