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Wheelchair aces prepare for final battle in county

Forty-three players of all ages and abilities from across the country will do battle for the singles and doubles titles at the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis National Finals, which takes place at The Shrewsbury Club until Sunday.

Craig Nicholson
Craig Nicholson

The culmination of a thriving domestic calendar of National Wheelchair Tennis Series tournaments that have been held across England, Scotland and Wales this year, the National Finals will see some of the country’s most promising players line up alongside experienced competitors as The Shrewsbury Club hosts the prestigious event for the fourth time since 2017.

After the 2020 Wheelchair Tennis National Finals was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a wealth of former champions and finalists in men’s, women’s, quad and junior singles and doubles draws lead they entry this year, including 2018 men’s singles winner Ruairi Logan and 2019 runner-up Tony Heslop.

Shropshire Wheelchair Tennis Group players who train at The Shrewsbury Club, that have entered the competition include Geoffrey Perkins and Craig Nicholson.

Logan and Heslop went head-to-head in the men’s final at the Shrewsbury Open in July, in the second of seven National Wheelchair Tennis Series tournaments, with similar one or two-day events staged in Newport, Grantham, London, Taunton, Glasgow and Leeds to give players of all age, ability and experience levels the opportunity to compete and progress along a proven pathway.

Among the men’s semi-finalists at July’s Shrewsbury Open was 17-year-old Andrew Penney, who made his National Finals debut in Shrewsbury in 2019 and won the men’s singles at the first and last National Wheelchair Tennis Series events of 2021, in Newport and Leeds.

Penney joined the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme in May 2020 and is one of several players on the same performance pathway who compete in Shrewsbury this week, including Martha Harris and Ellie Robertson, who will be among the challengers to women’s singles top seed and former National Finals winner Debbie Brazier.

The entry for the quad singles, for players who are impaired in three or more extremities, includes 2018 National Finals champion Gary Cox and 18-year-old Dan Pennington-Bridges. Meanwhile, the Under 18 Singles entries includes two more players on the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme, Oliver Cox and Ruben Harris.

An encouraging entry for the Novice Singles includes several players who began their wheelchair tennis journeys in 2021 and who have come through the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Initiative, a programme of taster days across the country that provided an aspirational experience of wheelchair tennis in a bid to increase the base of players who could yet go on to become future champions.

Looking ahead to the 2021 Wheelchair Tennis National Finals, Keith Carder, LTA head of competition, said: “Our LTA National Wheelchair Tennis Series of tournaments and the National Finals are an important part in providing age and experience-appropriate levels of aspirational competition for all players, whatever their background and goals for the future.

“After the pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 National Finals we are delighted to be back at the Shrewsbury Club to celebrate a year of returning to competition across all tiers of tennis.

“The success of British players this year at the Tokyo Paralympics and the Grand Slams only highlights the success of the LTA’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway and our National Finals entry will hopefully include a number of future stars.”

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