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The tennis players who play by different rules

Wheelchair tennis

Grand slam winners, Paralympians and Wimbledon champions have gone head-to-head at a new tennis championship.

Thirteen of the world’s best wheelchair players competed at the first Surbiton Wheelchair Tennis Tournament as a warm-up to Wimbledon.

It’s the first time players have had chance to try out their grass-court game in a tournament setting before heading to SW19 where three British players will be defending titles.

Wheelchair tennis is played on a regular size court with the same balls and rackets but the athletes use specialist wheelchairs and the ball can bounce twice each side of the net.

Lucy Shuker

Double Paralympic bronze medallist Lucy Shuker took up the sport after she was paralysed from the waist down in a motorbike accident.

She has represented Great Britain at three Paralympics and won a bronze medal in the doubles at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, alongside Jordanne Whiley.

“When I first started everyone said I was too disabled to compete,” says Shuker.

Lucy Shuker

“I’m the most disabled girl on the tour and, as much as it’s tough, I’ve managed to develop a chair and straps that help me with my body to compete, but it’s challenging every day.”

Lucy Shuker

“It’s made me stronger, it’s made my body better so dealing every day with my disability is easier.”

The top players travel the world to play the game with the four Grand Slams taking place in Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon and New York.

Alfie Hewett

Fresh from winning the men’s singles at this year’s French Open, Britain’s Alfie Hewett has a title to defend after winning the men’s doubles at Wimbledon last year with fellow Briton and world number one Gordon Reid.

Hewett started playing in 2005 and made his Paralympic debut in Rio. He came away with two silvers – in the doubles with Reid, and in the singles after Reid defeated him.

Alfie Hewett prepares to serve

He says: “Playing on grass requires a different approach. We’ve not previously had the opportunity to play competitive matches on grass ahead of Wimbledon, so this tournament will form a crucial part of my preparations.”

Reigning Australian Open champion, and world number two, Gustavo Fernandez beat Hewett on day one in a reverse match in Surbiton, soon after the Briton’s triumph in Paris.

Gustavo Fernandez
Gustavo Fernandez

The Tennis Foundation, which organised the event, says it hopes the warm-up tournament will give the players the edge for Wimbledon, where the wheelchair events start on 13 July.

Shingo Kunieda of Japan
Image caption Shingo Kunieda of Japan

All photographs by Phil Coomes

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