Paralympic Tennis Games – Rules, Errors, &Penalties

Wheelchair tennis is an exciting Paralympic sport. It was originally established in an attempt to include specially-abled athletes who wanted to compete on an international level. Over the years, wheelchair tennis became more popular, until it was finally included as part of the Paralympic games.

Today, the Paralympic tennis games generate the greatest percentage of viewership from across the globe.

Despite the popularity, however, many people still have questions about the game itself. For example, many wonder about the rules of wheelchair tennis in terms of how it’s played and whether if it’s any different from regular tennis.

In this article, we’ll be uncovering a range of interesting facts that will help to improve your knowledge before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics!

Read our full guide on wheelchair tennis in Wheelchair Tennis | A Guide To Redefine Disability and tennis rules in Most Important Tennis Rules ! Basic Guide for Singles and Double Tennis.

Paralympic Tennis: How is it Played?

The Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis is a proper format that involves athletes playing singles and doubles matches. The mechanics of how the game is played isn’t too different from the regular version of tennis. However, wheelchair tennis is divided into two categories: Open and Quad class.

Open Class

This is what we can consider being the standard version of wheelchair tennis. The Open class allows athletes with permanent disabilities to take part in the competition. Only players with lower limb disabilities can compete under this category. In simpler words, all active athletes must be in a wheelchair with lower-body impairment to be able to take part in this competition.

Quad Class

The Quad class is typically for individuals who suffer from upper limb disability in addition to the criteria defined in the Open class category.

Typically, Quad class is for players who may be restricted when it comes to moving the tennis racquet or lacking the capability to move their wheelchairs properly. Athletes can only play under this category if they can prove the associated loss of movements through previous medical records.

Paralympic Tennis: The Difference

A wheelchair tennis player during a tennis championship match, taking a shot.

At first glance, it’s difficult to pick out the differences between standard and wheelchair tennis. However, if we pick apart the basic rules, you’ll notice how many minor changes have been implemented for wheelchair tennis athletes.

1. The Wheelchair

This is, perhaps, the most visible difference you can notice every time you watch Paralympic tennis. Given the conditions, the wheelchair is actually considered as part of the player’s body in a match.

The wheelchairs play a major role when it comes to player movement. It’s basically the only way players can move across the court and get to the ball. The wheelchair can be moved when the player applies force on its wheels. Consequently, players will be required to use one of their hands to move the wheelchair.

On the other end, the other arm is mainly used to swing the racquet and whack the ball onto the opponent’s side.

Since the wheelchair is a part of the player’s body, the rules are primarily the same. Let’s look at it this way; if a tennis ball comes into contact with the wheelchair, we can assume that it counts as a legal touch.

2. Court Rules

The court rules are, more or less, the same as far as size and boundaries are concerned. However, there is one major difference that applies in-game.

In wheelchair tennis, the ball is allowed to bounce twice before it can count as a point for a player. In other words, a player is allowed to strike the ball on either the first or second bounce, depending upon the position. This is with the condition that the ball itself lands within the designated boundary.

The reason why two bounces are allowed is that the movement of the wheelchair can cause slight delays for the players. A player reaching for the ball would have to the wheelchair to move before they can position themselves to strike it. This impacts their reaction and movement time, which can thereby significantly affect their performance.

To cater to the delays in movement, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has allowed players to hit the ball after the second bounce.

3. Holding Tennis Balls

Natalia Mayara

At any point in time, you must’ve noticed how regular tennis players like to stock a few extra tennis balls in their pockets. This is a traditional practice and helps to save time for the players.

With wheelchair tennis, however, it becomes rather difficult to hold the balls in the pockets. Alternatively, players make use of their wheelchairs to place the tennis balls in between the rims.

This allows them easy access whenever they want to serve. At the same time, the rims of the wheelchair can store up to a dozen tennis balls which is much more compared to a small pocket!

4. Tennis Equipment

Quite naturally, players are responsible for bringing and maintaining their own tennis equipment. In the case of Paralympic tennis, the equipment involves many things apart from a racquet and ball.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the players to ensure that their wheelchair equipment is ready and up to the mark. The ITF states that players will be given a total of 15 minutes to appear after the official match time begins. If for any reason, they are not able to make it on time, the referee will have the right to take the necessary action.

In case the wheelchair breaks down in the middle of the match, players will be given a total of 20 mins to repair the damages. If the breakdown is beyond repair, the referee or umpire will take the authority to suspend the match altogether.

5. Longer Racquets for Quad Class

Due to the Quad class’ special circumstances, the ITF has permitted players to use racquets that are extra long. This is attributed to the fact how many quad players are unable to position their hands. Interestingly enough, the racquets can also be taped to the player’s hand if needed. The referee provides extra time for setting up the racquets in each match.

6. Other Differences

There is a variety of minor differences that often go unnoticeable. Some of them don’t apply to everyone. Rather, depending upon the athlete’s condition, the ITF has specified certain lay-offs.

A primary example of such a rule is the luxury for players to use one foot to maneuver their wheelchairs. This condition only applies if the player is unable to move the wheelchair, using its wheel. Otherwise, in normal conditions, using a foot to steer a wheelchair can lead to a major penalty!

The ITF also allows wheelchair players to receive one push at the beginning of their service. The push helps them gain momentum which further is transferred onto the tennis ball being hit towards the opponent.

Errors & Penalties in Paralympic Tennis

The errors and penalties in paralympic tennis are pretty standardized. The only requirement that players are supposed to follow is to sit on their wheelchairs for as long as the match may occur. There are a few rules here and there that have been mentioned before.

When it comes to making errors, there’s practically no difference to discuss. Wheelchair tennis players undergo similar error types. They may be unable to play proper strokes or be too slow to make it to the ball on time.

There are no special types of errors limited to Paralympic tennis nor are the players evaluated differently.

Penalties, on the other hand, can apply on many occasions. One particular penalty that applies is for wheelchair tennis players taking an additional toilet break. Athletes are allowed only 2 bathroom breaks and cannot take the third one without the referee’s permission.

If the player forces their way to the toiler without taking permission, then they may be charged under the code of conduct.

Perhaps the most serious penalty can be a disqualification if the athlete tries to tamper with the wheelchair or tries to make illegal use of their feet to give themselves a benefit. At such an instance, the opponent will instantly be granted victory without any further arguments.

2020 Tokyo Paralympic Tennis: Let The Games Begin!

Make Sure To Support Your Players, Even If They Don’t End Up Winning!

Paralympic tennis is one such event that completely stands out from the competition. As a matter of fact, we can argue how some fans are overly emotional to the point where they start bashing players representing their nations. Such a tradition is, in fact, unethical and should be avoided at all costs.

In an overall sense, Paralympic tennis is equally tough to play and follows guidelines that have been passed down by the ITF. It’s a state of play where athletes are required to simultaneously focus on many things. Only those who can balance the perfect mix of movement and power can succeed in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. We’re hoping for some nail-biting matches and expect every player to give it their all!

For more updates on Paralympic Tennis, please make sure to visit our website where we discuss other aspects of wheelchair tennis along with advice on how you can begin your journey as well!

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