On tuesday, Norfolk LTA met up with rising wheelchair tennis stars Ben Bartram (aged 12), Jess Webb (18) and Ruby Bishop (13) to chat about the life of a wheelchair tennis player.
Benji and Ruby were both wheelchair basketball players before discovering tennis. Ruby attended a Norfolk & Norwich Hospital Summer Sports Camp where she was encouraged to try Tennis. One phone call to Norma Bowen, Norfolk LTA Inclusive Tennis Co-ordinator and she was soon on court playing the game. Jess was directed to Norma by Active Norfolk. All three players were keen to thank Norma for helping them to get started in the sport.
Once Benji and Ruby had experienced a few training sessions they realised that to play the game well, you needed good mobility and control of the wheelchair. They both agreed that Basketball had enabled them to develop these skills which helped them adapt to tennis. Mastering the technique side of the game was the challenge. This is where coach Derek Perry is able to adapt each players technique to suit the mobility and playing style of the individual.
At present both Benji and Ruby are focusing on developing serve technique. Jess has more matchplay experience and has identified her recovery speed and need to increase her weight of shot.
Looking to the future, all three players have clear goals they are working towards. Benji is having an operation next week and realises he won’t be able to play for a few weeks. He is determined to get back on court asap so he can start playing some tournaments. Ruby played in the national championships last year and is determined to reach this level again. Jess, who is the current National Ladies Doubles Champion is aiming to play some ITF events and would like to secure a world ranking.
All three players are now attending national talent id sessions at Loughborough which are ongoing throughout the year. Coach, Derek Perry is keen to add that Norfolk LTA will soon be arranging wheelchair tennis county matches to support the players current tournament schedules.