Wimbledon Wheelchair Tennis and AccessibilityBy Emma Muldoon -
Once again it’s that time of year when Murray Mania sweeps the nation while we all binge on strawberries and cream for two intense but glorious weeks of Wimbledon madness.
We’re already half way through Wimbledon 2016 as Andy Murray heads into the second and final week.
But what makes this year extra special is the introduction of a Wheelchair Tennis singles tournament. This year also marks the 10th year of wheelchair doubles. Although it is the last of the four Grand Slams to introduce wheelchair singles, it’s clear that Wimbledon is moving in the right direction to showcase the extraordinary talent of the Wheelchair Tennis players.
Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett, Jordanne Whiley, Lucy Shuker and Louise Hunt will be competing for Britain in the Wheelchair Tennis singles tournament, which will start on 7th July – the second week of Wimbledon.
The challenge the players face during the singles events is playing on grass, but it is a challenge they are more than ready for. British no. 1, Gordon Reid says “The sport has come to a stage where the athletes are strong enough to play singles to a good level on grass courts. It’s really exciting for our sport.”
It’s been said that one of the reasons Wimbledon haven’t introduced wheelchair singles until now was because of the grass courts. It is more challenging for the players to push their chairs on grass compared to hard courts. They are required to push more as the chair moves slower, can’t glide as easily and the ball bounces much slower.
Over the past few years, events like the Paralympic Games have certainly boosted the profile and interest in sports involving disabled athletes. This may also be a reason why Wimbledon have finally decided to introduce Wheelchair Tennis singles to the Championships Schedule. Better late than never, right?
Over the years I’ve also found myself getting more and more interested in watching tennis as I’ve grown to understand the game. So much so that I’d love to go to Wimbledon one day and experience all of its traditions while enjoying a match.
As a wheelchair user, I’m always uncertain if places are going to be accessible and that goes for Wimbledon too. It is the world’s oldest tennis tournament after all and anything that’s old typically isn’t accessible to wheelchair users – I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with restaurants, hotels, and music venues etc. in old buildings.
However, Wimbledon offers great accessibility for disabled visitors and spectators. They are continually looking at ways to improve the accessible facilities by welcoming all suggestions from the public.
Wimbledon tickets are sold via a ballot system, but don’t worry if you’ve missed the closing date. You may still get your hands on tickets on the day of play. For tickets, disabled visitors need to phone the Ticket Office on 020 8971 2473, which will also provide accessible information on queueing and car parking.
There is disabled parking and pre-paid disabled car parking, but it could cost you £25, so best to call beforehand or check the website for more details.
There are reserved and unreserved viewing areas for wheelchair users. Centre, No.1, No.2 and No.3 Courts all have reserved spaces while the other courts (No.4 to 19) have unreserved spaces. Wheelchair access to the Aorangi Terrace and the large screen is via a ramp where there is also a reserved area.
Accessible toilets are available by use of a Radar key at various areas throughout the grounds. Be sure to take your own RADAR key if you have one, otherwise ask a security officer at the gate or within the grounds to use the key.
So if you’re looking forward to Wheelchair Tennis singles as much as I am, then make sure you tune in on the 7th July for all the action. Then Saturday and Sunday of the final weekend for both Wheelchair Men’s and Ladies' Singles final and Wheelchair Gentlemen's and Ladies’ Doubles final.
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