How is British wheelchair tennis building for the future?
By Gemma-Louise Stevenson
Last Updated: 20/06/19 2:20pm
Gordon Reid, Alfie Hewett, Andy Lapthorne, Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker. We've seen so many of Britain's senior wheelchair tennis players shine on the world stage over this past few weeks.
But the up-and-coming British junior talents in the sport are also following hot on their heels when it comes to on-court achievements.
When Britain's Dahnon Ward first picked up a tennis racket only a few years ago, little did he know what he was going to achieve.
Now, having won World Team Cup silver as part of the GB juniors team, picked up his first ITF Grade A junior title earlier this month in Amiens, and earned a spot within the top 10 junior boys in the international rankings, he has a clear idea of where he wants to be as the second half of his season approaches.
"I aiming to be at Tarbes for the end of year junior masters so all of these recent results are a great boost to getting me there," he told Sky Sports.
"I do put a lot of pressure on myself to exceed my own expectations so I also have to sometimes remind myself I'm only 13."
From Grassroots to Global Stage
One of the things that wheelchair tennis has done so well in this country is find a way to build on the legacy being created by those they have competing and winning at the top level of the senior tour.
Ward, as well as the other six juniors currently on the LTA's Junior Futures Potential Programme, are very much testament to this.
He found his love of tennis at grassroots level, then worked his way up through the National Series that caters for players from novice to main draw standard and eventually found himself competing for his country on the global stage.
And now, after being identified as one of the junior players with the potential to represent GB in years to come, he also benefits from regular training camps at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. He is being given the opportunity to learn about every aspect of the game, on and off the court.
"It's been a great experience on the Junior Futures potential programme so far," he said. "We've not just had the chance to improve our tennis playing.
"We have also learnt about how to warm up and cool down properly, the nutrition we need to get into our bodies and also the mental aspects of the game, including being put into pressurised situations - which has helped so much with matchplay."
"The seven of us who are part of it have been having regular training sessions together down in London and we've built great bonds with each other as well so it's been great for making new friends too."
Following in Famous Footsteps
Ward, of course, has a wealth of British talent at the minute to look up to but he's also a big fan of the style of tennis the current World No 1, Gustavo Fernandez.
"He's just got so much power in his shots," the boys junior World No 9 said. "Gordon and Alfie are great too, and they showcased just how well they can play at the World Team Cup when they won Gold in May."
"Alfie was playing so aggressively, he was just out-hitting [Stephane] Houdet in that final and I was lucky enough to be sitting on the side of the court and watch that happen.
"The British seniors were cheering us on loudly and encouraging us too when we were playing out there and they weren't on court. It's so good to have their support as well, it makes such a difference when you're on court to know they're behind you."