Wheelchair Tennis Stars Light Up Nottingham
Following hot on the heels of the Aegon Open Nottingham, the crème de la crème of wheelchair tennis took to Nottingham’s courts this week, as the British Open got into full swing.
I went along to catch the quarter finals, which took place on a sunny Thursday afternoon at the Nottingham Tennis Centre.
It quickly became apparent, as I flicked through my programme, and wandered around the humming courts, how high the stakes were – with committed gasps, grunts and cheers punctuating the air all around.
I took a seat for one of the day’s headline matchups, which pitted Britain’s double Wimbledon Champion and world no. 6 – Jordanne Whiley MBE – against Germany’s former World no. 1 Sabine Ellerbrock.
It was my first time seeing wheelchair tennis in the flesh, and it was hard not to be amazed by the sheer athleticism and upper body strength on show, as the players threw their chairs across the court – pivoting on pinheads in order to pull off dazzling rallies.
Whiley lost the first set, but seemed to grow in belief as the match progressed. Her powerful forehands began to find their mark, and the tense match went all the way down to the wire.
Willed on by the Nottingham home crowd – she eventually managed to seal a well-deserved semi-final berth, 4/6 6/2 6/4.
Things didn’t quite go to plan for London 2012 Bronze Medallist Lucy Shuker, however, who fought valiantly before succumbing to the class of World no. 2 Yui Kamiji.
Nottinghamshire’s own David Phillipson was disappointed to miss out on the semis of the doubles’ competition, but delighted to see such an important event in the wheelchair tennis calendar come to Nottingham.
He said: “We were playing alright at the beginning of the week, but we just let it slip a bit.
“It’s been a really good tournament. Obviously, I love it because it’s my home town.
“It’s free entry, so just come down, support and watch wheelchair tennis. If you haven’t seen it before it’s a great sport to watch, and we’d love more people to get involved with it.”
After seeing the sport live for the first time, I can definitely vouch for that – and you’ll struggle to find more intense, committed sporting action anywhere in the country this weekend.
So get down to the Tennis Centre and cheer the Brits home!
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– Alistair Webster