Robin Ammerlaan was born with Spina Bifida, but it took the doctors 28 years to discover this. At age 28, Robin had back surgery which left him a partial paraplegic. This fact didn't stop him from playing his favorite sport which was tennis. Ammerlaan played wheelchair tennis professionally for six months a year and is employed by one of the largest dealers in Holland as an advisor in high-performance wheelchairs. In tennis he has won scores of tournaments and has been victorious five times at the prestigious Masters Tournament. In addition to the gold medals he earned at the 2000 (doubles) and 2004 Paralympics (singles) plus a bronze in at Beijing 2008, Ammerlaan earned the title of ITF World Champion in 2006. Robin retired from playing competitive wheelchair tennis following the 2012 London Paralympics, but leaves with legendary results and great advice!
How is wheelchair tennis played?
Wheelchair tennis is played basically the same as able bodied tennis except that the wheelchair tennis player gets two bounces instead of one.
How do I get started?
First, find a friend to play with. The beauty of wheelchair tennis is that you can play with your able bodied family and friends as well as other wheelchair players. Under the rules of tennis the wheelchair players are permitted two bounces and the able bodied players one, but when you are practicing, you can play to your own rules to suit the standard of the players on the court. You can also email the ITF at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the opportunities to play and find coaches for wheelchair tennis in your country.
How do quadriplegics play?
Many tetraplegics and quadriplegics play tennis by strapping/taping the racket to their hand. You can view the video of Nick Taylor who plays in the quad division and see how he plays. He is one of the only players in the world who uses a power wheelchair.
Should I use an adjustable frame?
If you are just beginning to play tennis or don’t know yet what your best seating position is, yes, you should use an adjustable chair like the new Invacare Top End Pro Tennis Wheelchair. It has adjustments just where you need them: rear seat height, front seat height, center of gravity, back angle/height and the footrest can be adjusted both forwards and backwards, up and down and angle to get the best foot position.
What is the best camber for tennis?
Wheelchair tennis players turn a lot and don't want to flip over, so 20 degrees is used most for stability and turning. The disadvantage is with big camber, you increase the width of the chair so you must take two chairs (everyday and sports) to the court.
Should I use 24", 25" or 26" rear wheels?
In short, 24" wheels are easier to start your push, but if you think you're strong enough, 25" is good, especially with a taller seat height. If you're over 5 foot 8, you'll like 26" in combination with a higher seating position (18" and higher).
What set-up (seat heights, camber and axle position) should I use?
If you're not sure, use an adjustable chair like the Invacare Top End Pro Tennis Wheelchair or try a friend’s chair! The trend today is to sit taller, with bigger wheels, 20 degrees of camber and an aggressive axle position like 5, 6 or 7” to facilitate better turning. With the 5th wheel or anti-tip, these aggressive axle positions are possible.
Should I use side guards?
If you intend to play on clay courts and don't like messy clothes, you'll need them. I do not use side guards, but like to be very secure in my chair so instead I use a click strap or ratchet system across my hips, toe clips and knee stabilizers.
How do I find out more information on wheelchair tennis or chair set-up?
Log on to this web site for upcoming tournaments, news and lots more: http://www.itftennis.com/wheelchair and for chair set-up questions, just fill out the contact us form and we will get back to you.
I notice that some people have titanium tennis chairs and some have aluminum. What do you recommend?
I used to play in an Invacare Top End T-5 Tennis Titanium chair but recently changed to the InvacareTop End T-5 7000 Series Tennis chair because it is as light but most importantly more stiff and I move faster. View the video where Robin Ammerlaan answers this question.
I’m not US-resident, how do I get an Invacare Top End product?
For product information outside the USA, please contact the Invacare location in your country.
Is there a video tutorial that can show me how to play: pushing the tennis wheelchair while holding the raquet, hitting the ball, serving and any drills that can improve my game?
Yes, tennis legend, David Hall stars in this great video titled "Let's Roll, Learning Wheelchair Tennis with the Pros.". There are specific sections on basic strokes and mobility, advanced strokes and mobility, injury prevention, drills and resourses.