On 10th October 2021, Defiant Sports carried out the first ever pan-disability LTA Open Court tournament. This allowed players with various disabilities to play against one another at a fair level, pairing wheelchair players, cerebral palsy players, players with visual impairments and players with learning disabilities against/with one another for numerous doubles matches. This not only gave these players insight into how other disability tennis leagues play, but it also allowed people who had been de-classified in their leagues to play again – including an ex-National Champion of visually impaired tennis, and an ex-Team GB wheelchair tennis player. It’s for these reasons that the tournament was organised; to allow as many people as possible to play tennis at a competitive level, no matter their disabilities. No classifications, no discrimination, just people united by their love of tennis and their desire to compete.
Being a pilot tournament, it was hard to predict how successful the event would be, and what barriers we may face along the way. However, it was a huge success! We had 20 sign ups, and a variety of disabilities and abilities, with some playing their first tournament and others being familiar to the competition world of tennis. In order to ensure everyone played against players of similar ability, there was a play test to start off the tournament, allow for categorisation based on ability rather than disability. Overall, the event ran smoothly, with each player getting to compete in around 10 matches against different opponents and with different doubles partners each time. The impact of the tournament was phenomenal, with all players leaving with a smile on their face, medal on their neck, and a few lucky winners having a trophy and Wimbledon towel to commemorate the ground-breaking event.
Due to the feedback received, we are now looking to make this tournament an annual event, with the possibility of smaller tournaments going on throughout the year. We are hoping that seeing the success of this event, and the proof that people with all disabilities can and should be allowed to compete against one another, others will be encouraged to carry out their own pan-disability tournaments. We’ve already had one tennis club tell us that they’d love to replicate the event, and we’re hoping to create more waves soon!
If you would like to find out about the logistics of the tournament and how you could run your own, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org / 07887755856 / www.defiantsports.org.uk.