Wheelchair tennis is growing rapidly at the University of Arizona as players from all over the country are drawn by the year-round play and the variety of athletic and academic opportunities. The program is open to all, whether international tournament players or first-time recreational players. Coaches Claudia Dill and Mike Cottingham are both USPTA-certified wheelchair instructors. Mike is a former ranked wheelchair Men’s Open player and Claudia is a ranked able-bodied Senior player.
The group meets officially on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 at the University courts. Additionally, players often meet for independent practice and challenge matches, or for individual coaching sessions, at other times during the week.
The Rules of Tennis apply to both able-bodied and wheelchair players equally with the exception that wheelchair players are allowed two bounces if needed. This is due to the fact that the chair player cannot move sideways and is ill advised to move backwards. The player therefore is constantly pushing the chair forward with rapid turns to reposition him/herself. To facilitate this, players use specially designed chairs that are lightweight with up to 20 degrees of camber, making them extremely quick and stable.
In competitive tennis, there are several divisions that enable a player to compete progressively. They range from Men’s, Women’s and Quad Open divisions, which include several professional players who tour the world playing tournaments, through the A, B, and C divisions in those three categories. There are also a mixed Junior division for youths through 18 years of age and a mixed Masters’ division for players 40 and older.
Wheelchair tennis is a lifetime recreational activity, available to all who enjoy sports as a part of their lives. Many of the tennis players in the DRC program are also involved with the other sports offered, primarily basketball and quad rugby.