Wheelchair tennis for everyone at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park festival

Wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre - Credit: Archant

“It’s just like tennis, but the ball can bounce twice. And it’s in a wheelchair.”

Coach David Vellala

Coach David Vellala - Credit: Archant

Simple.

Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre hosted a Ticket2Tokyo Wheelchair Tennis Festival last weekend, giving everyone the opportunity to try this exciting sport for free and take their first shots towards representing ParalympicsGB at Tokyo 2020.

Just to prove how accessible the sport is, I thought I would try and give it a go myself.

Not to make excuses, but I’m quite a poor tennis player anyway, but given that one of my few assets – long legs – were being replaced by a totally new method of moving around, it was never going to be Wimbledon.

Wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre - Credit: Archant


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But once I’d managed to get the hang of rolling a few feet backwards and forwards, while holding both a wheel and a racquet in my hand, it was actually really enjoyable.

Rather unique in the fact it can be enjoyed by wheelchair-users and able-bodied people at the same time in a competitive setting, it was great to try something new with people from totally different background.

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Tennis coach David Vellala, 52, was forced to use a set of wheels after suffering a stroke at the age of 39 and began playing wheelchair tennis.

Now back out of the wheelchair, he coaches people of all ages and abilities at the centre as the disability tennis network coordinator.

Reporter Mark Shales trying out wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre

Reporter Mark Shales trying out wheelchair tennis at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre - Credit: Archant

“It is a complicated sport, but we had at least three or four people that had never played before and by the end of the session you wouldn’t have known that,” he said.

“If you’re a bit patient with yourself, you can get a lot out of wheelchair tennis.

“Unlike perhaps wheelchair basketball which is very physical and you have to organise teams, with this you can just pop down to your local park and just have a practise or even just find a wall.”

Ticket2Tokyo aims to attract new players of all ability levels to play wheelchair tennis in a fun and social environment.

Players who have shown potential will then be invited to the next stage of the Ticket2Tokyo programme, with the best players given the opportunity to progress all the way to representing their country.”

And following on from last year’s success, the best players in the world will return once again to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the 2015 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.

For more information about Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre call 08456 770 604 or visit visitleevalley.org.uk/hockeytennis.

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