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I’m no Billie Jean King but we’re making progress – Lucy Shuker BEM.


March 4, 2024

I’m currently Chair of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Player Council, so I thought it might be interesting to give you a bit of insight.

I’m really enjoying my role. It has been an interesting experience engaging in conversations with the ITF about the future of our sport. Of course, there have been challenges. But I’m extremely passionate about leaving the sport in a better place than it was when I started playing. 

Billie Jean King is a huge inspiration to many of us. She has been a pioneer for change within tennis for so many decades. In fact Billie is a huge supporter of wheelchair tennis – and can often be seen supporting players at the Grand Slams. 

I’d like to think I’m doing my bit in my own way, along with a lot of other people who understand the issues we face in wheelchair tennis and the improvements that could and are being made.

One great recent development is that the size of the draws at Grand Slams has doubled from eight to sixteen for the men’s and women’s draws. This comprises of the top fourteen wheelchair tennis players who gain direct entry – plus two wild cards. The Quad division has also seen advancements with 16 draws at both the Australian and US Open. All of these changes are really positive and reflective of the increased depth and talent in wheelchair tennis. 

This is something I’m extremely passionate about. Larger draw sizes at major events reflect the talent in our sport and give more players the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

The Grand Slams are hugely influential to wheelchair tennis. They have been very supportive in putting more money into the sport. Increasing prize money is a massive help. Hopefully that will have the added effect of attracting even more players into our sport. 

On a basic level, that extra money can go towards players’ travel costs and helps their coaches or physios to attend tournaments abroad with them. It’s an expensive business.

Another big topic of conversation in many disability sports is classification. We have seen some recent changes in how players are classified. Now the International Tennis Federation have designated staff working on classification and gathering evidence to make good long-term decisions in that important area.

There are many opinions about classification in wheelchair tennis. There’s an ongoing debate about whether we make changes to the existing divisions. This could have the potential to grow the sport. At the moment, there’s a population of wheelchair users who have a disability similar to mine and don’t choose to pursue wheelchair tennis – because of the perceived difficulty competing against players that are much more able than them.

I’m really passionate about this. I love tennis, it’s such an amazing sport and has given me so much. I would love to see more spinal cord injured players coming into the sport. And if that means making adjustments, then I can only see that as a positive thing. 

Any far-reaching decisions in wheelchair tennis tend to be made at the end of each four-year cycle, marked by the Paralympics. So at the end of this year there may or may not be some changes. 

As you can probably tell, I enjoy advocating for change and working with the decision-makers to see those changes come about wherever possible. That way I can help keep things moving in a progressive direction for future generations of players.

I’m coming towards the end of my career. And when I finally stop playing, I’d like to stay involved in tennis in some way. What the sport has given me has been life-changing – and I’d like to be able to continue to give something back.

I’m grateful for all that wheelchair tennis has allowed me to achieve. And that British Empire Medal I mentioned in my last blog – which made me feel so honoured and humbled – will give me a very special day in May. I’ve been invited to Buckingham Palace for a garden party with other recipients. That’s part of the recognition for my services to sport. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I received a letter in the post informing me of the award.

Soon after that garden party, I’ll be in a long string of tournaments that all lead to Paris for the Paralympics if all goes well. What a summer lies ahead! And I’ll try to enjoy every moment and share it all with you.


The wheelchair tennis tournaments take place in the second week of Wimbledon 2024.

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