Wheelchair tennis was first showcased in the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and became a Paralympics medal event four years later in Barcelona. In 1998, it became fully integrated into the International Tennis Federation becoming the first disability sport to become part of a world governing body. The sport now enjoys a complete tournament circuit with single and doubles matches, and divisions for athletes with only a lower body disability and for those affected in three or more limbs.
Now, the winner of three grand-slam single titles and seventeen doubles in wheelchair tennis, Stephane Houdet, wants the sport to be included as a new Olympic event in the 2024 games in Paris. He wants to make wheelchair tennis the first disability sport to make the transition and allow able-bodied athletes to be included in the competition. As he explained, “It’s about inclusion and taking the sport to the next level.”
Wheelchair tennis is the ideal candidate to complete this mission, because once you are sitting and playing in the wheelchair it makes no difference if you have full use of your lower body or not. Special wheelchairs are used with cambered wheels which allow tight spins, and athletes are strapped in so that they can use the weight and force of their bodies to complete some phenomenal moves. Also, the sport is played on the same court, with the same racket as standing tennis, and the only difference in the rules is that the ball can bounce twice before being returned and only the first bounce needs to be within the court.
Houdet and his supporters feel that it would open up new horizons for disabled athletes allowing them to compete with the best in the world and not just the best in their group, as well as promoting respect and integration between able-bodied and disabled people in other spheres, not just sports.