Wheelchair Tennis Rules
Wheelchair tennis as a Paralympic sport follows the Olympic tennis rules and regulations; however, the wheelchair version has one crucial difference. The rules of a wheelchair tennis game are actually very simple! There is just a single difference when compared to the able-bodied tennis: players are permitted to allow the ball bounce two times before sending it back to their opponent. It seems easy right? Well, it isn’t. When a player allow the ball to bounce twice, he or she must make a returning strike to his or her opponent before the third bounce. The second bounce is permitted whether outside or inside the tennis court boundaries.
However, to be able to compete, a sportsperson must have a permanent, medically diagnosed, mobility-related physical challenge which must cause a substantial functional loss in one or both lower limbs.
Three categories are allowed to compete in a wheelchair tennis game: quads, men and women. Quad sports persons are those with partial loss of function at the upper part of their body but completely disabled at the lower part. Most of the players under this category pack and get their racquet taped to their hand in order to have a firm grip. Others use their wrong hand to play the sport. For them, engaging in a tennis game is a true performance.
Wheelchair tennis is among the few exciting sports to watch and take part in. The tennis balls and racquet used are the same as that of the able-bodied tennis. Wheelchair tennis abides by the same rules as able-bodied tennis except the one bounce rule. Below are some wheelchair tennis rules.
The Two Bounce Rule
In a wheelchair tennis game, the ball can bounce not just once but twice. The player must strike a returning shot before the ball touches the court a third time. The ball can bounce for the second time either outside or within the court boundaries. The score rule in a wheelchair tennis game is the same as in an able-bodied game.
A player loses a point if:
1. The player is unable to return the ball after it hits the ground for the second time;
2. The player utilizes any part of his/her lower limbs or feet as stabilizers or as brakes while striking the ball, delivering service, stopping or turning against a wheel or against the ground while the ball is in his/her possession; or
3. The player is unable to keep both buttocks in contact with the seat of his wheelchair when returning the ball.
When an able-bodied tennis player is playing against or with a wheelchair tennis player in doubles or singles, the able-bodied player must follow the rules for able-bodied tennis, while the wheelchair player must follow the rules for wheelchair tennis. In this case, the player in a wheelchair is permitted to allow the ball bounce twice while the able-bodied player may allow the ball to bounce only once. However, bare in mind that a functional loss of the lower limb or extremities includes the foot, ankle, buttocks, leg, thigh and hip.
Two toilet breaks are allowed during a doubles or singles match. Each toilet break will be for a given period of time. The player must ask for permission from his opponent or the Chair Umpire (if any), who cannot possibly refuse the request. Extra breaks can only be granted by the officiating referee, Chair Umpire or Roving Umpire. According to the code of conduct, if a tennis player leaves the court for a third toilet break without receiving permission, he or she will be penalized for “leaving the tennis court without permission”.
The wheelchair of a player is considered as part of his/her body and all rules that applies to the body of a player shall apply to the chair.
Preparation of Equipment
Each player is solely responsible for making sure that his/her wheelchair and every other equipment is set before the match begins. The referee can default any player who isn’t ready to enter the court for any reason if that player doesn’t show up within 15 (fifteen) minutes into the game.
Propelling The Wheelchair With The Foot
1. If a player is unable to propel his or her wheelchair through the chair’s wheels, then he or she will be permitted to propel the chair by using one foot.
2. In accordance with rule number one above, “a participant is allowed to propel the wheelchair using a foot”. However, the player’s foot must not by any chance touch the ground while propelling under the following:
i) during a forward movement of the swing, and when the racquet hits the ball;
ii) from the beginning of the service motion till the racquet hits the ball.
3. Any player that go against this rule shall lose the point.
Broken Equipment, Time Limit Repairs
The referee, Chair Umpire or Roving Umpire has the right to ascertain suspension of play. When a wheelchair is broken, repairs must not take more than 20 (twenty) minutes in total during a match. Repairs must be made whenever a wheelchair breakdown. Delay beyond the given time limit will be judged by the referee or any other official on duty (Chair Umpire or Roving Umpire).
Quad Heat Rule
Tournaments must make ice buckets and shade available on court for all quad players. A coach can assist a player to spray water over his/her face. In places with hot climates, matches must be scheduled either in the morning or late afternoon/evening.
Wheelchair tennis is an interesting, fast-paced sport that can be played even on a local tennis court. It has a large number of supporters and players which makes it an exciting way of meeting new people. The sport can be played at every level, from local games to representing your province at the national games and possibly even competing at international tournaments like the World Championships and Paralympics. All wheelchair bound tennis players are allowed to give it a try!