At WDH we are always proud to be associated with Paralympian tennis star Lucy Shuker. Here’s her take on the US Open challenge ahead and much more.
Shuker on the decision to go to New York.
‘It’s strange to have mixed feelings about going off to play in a Wheelchair Tennis Grand Slam in New York. Normally I’d be really excited. And it remains an absolute honour to be part of this year’s US Open.
I was next in line for a wild card if someone else decided not to go or was injured. Now the opportunity has come my way and I fly out on Friday, September 4.
It wasn’t a straightforward decision though. You have to weigh up the risks to yourself and your team.
That involved lots of discussions over the last fortnight. But it soon emerged that the wider wheelchair tennis tour was starting up again anyway on September 14 with three events in France.
So where was the safest place to be, if we were going to start playing again?
To my mind the safest place of all would be at a Grand Slam event. So that was the deciding factor.
The US Open is certainly being organised with safety in mind.
There have been regular zoom meetings with all players, running through safety protocols and requirements and allowing opportunities for players to ask questions.
You can only fly into JFK airport in New York and you can only go to one hotel. They give you a Covid19 test there immediately on arrival.
You’re not allowed to leave your hotel room for 24 hours while you wait for the result. As long as it’s negative you get to leave your hotel room, but only wearing a mask. You are tested again two days later and then every four days.
Despite all those very necessary precautions, it should still be an experience to remember.
I’m lucky enough to have played the US Open four times before and even had the privilege of playing a doubles match on Arthur Ashe. They’ve resurfaced the courts since then. And the able-bodied players are already playing at Flushing Meadows in the US Open.’
Shuker on improved channels of communication.
‘Strange to think that when I went into a meeting a few months ago as vice-chair of the Player Council, there wasn’t even going to be a US Open for wheelchair tennis.
The USTA have always been fantastic supporters of wheelchair tennis and have been looking at ways to move the sport forward.
When the US Open was initially announced, however, wheelchair tennis was not in the line up.
The event organisers were trying to work out how to hold the US Open this year. They had cut several able-bodied events too. These included qualifying, half the doubles draw and the mixed doubles.
So it wasn’t just the wheelchair tennis event being impacted at that stage.
Happily they managed to have a rethink on the wheelchair event. And that’s a credit to them as far as I’m concerned.
Hopefully it has opened up better communication channels between the Grand Slams and the wheelchair tennis community.
I’m also very pleased that the Player Council has had a really positive impact on helping to develop the best-working rankings system in light of Covid19.
Player Council members were initially presented with solutions from the ATP and WTA. As players, however, we recognised that wheelchair tennis tournaments and points work in very different ways.
The Player Council made some alternative proposals, which took into consideration the importance of Paralympic qualification and the investment that a number of players had already made.
The system will see points remaining for 104 weeks instead of the usual 52, so that points gained in 2019 would only roll off in 2021.
The ATP and WTA have since adopted similar formulae.’
Shuker on the Paralympics in Tokyo
‘For wheelchair tennis, this ensures that qualification points for the Paralympics in Tokyo next year are protected.
That’s still very much a target for me and I hope to take part in my fourth Paralympics, playing doubles again with Jordanne Whiley. We have won two doubles bronze medals together at the Paralympics already.
I’m 40 now but physically I still feel like I’m 25! I have trained hard all summer and I’m beating my personal bests in various tests.
So I can’t wait to get into competition again. And I’m warming up with some singles and doubles matches this midweek in the Wheelchair Tennis Series at the National Tennis Centre.
Next stop New York!
I’ll let you know how it all goes.
That’s it for now,
Love, Lucy x’
We hope you support Lucy Shuker and wheelchair tennis in general. It’s skilful and exciting. It’s great to watch. At WDH we love it!