Tennis Is Back
After the welcoming news this week that the US Open tennis will definitely go ahead at Flushing Meadows in August, there was massive disappointment for wheelchair tennis players who received the news that they will not be allowed to participate as the US Open has decided to exclude the event from this year’s tournament.
On Wednesday, the organisers said that the Grand Slam would not include mixed doubles, junior or wheelchair events.
Reigning men’s singles and doubles champion Andy Lapthorne said “It’s really tough to take. We’ve had to battle for a lot over the years for what we’ve got right now.
They’ve just used this as an excuse not to have the wheelchairs and the’ve not even consulted with the wheelchair guys to see whether they want to come and play and that’s tough.”
He went on to say, “It’s just a bit of a kick in the teeth. I won there last year, I’ve earned the right to go and defend the title.”
He added, “If you are going to open the doors to the top able bodied players to play to then close the door on top wheelchair players because they have a disability, you’ve just assumed they wont come and play because of the currant climate. The only word you can use to describe it is discrimination.”
In a statement, the ITF said, “It understands and shares the disappointment felt by many. We fully appreciate the huge logistical challenges faced by organisers in what are unprecedented times.
It is right that in the midst of a global pandemic, the safety of all competitors must be the first and only priority. We continue to discuss with the organisers potential approaches that could allow the wheelchair tennis competition to take place either on or off site.”
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons has urged the US Open to reconsider its decision.
An IPC statement said: “The IPC is disappointed at the US Open’s decision not to include wheelchair tennis in this September’s event, a decision that has left a lot of the athlete community rightly upset and angered.
We urge organisers to reconsider this decision which could potentially undo years of great work to promote and showcase the sport of wheelchair tennis.”
Understandably, this has infuriated a massive amount of people in the sport. For the organisers to say that they have to restrict the number of people in the facilities to mitigate risk due to the virus pandemic is a fair point.
However, are they also discriminating against wheelchair athletes. In my opinion I feel they are.
I can fully understand that the 128 men and 128 women in the singles draws should take priority, after all this is what the US Open is all about, but you simply cannot ignore the relentless effort that wheelchair tennis players dedicate to their sport.
These athletes desperately rely on slam tournaments like the US Open for money to be able to pay their coaches, to be able to train, able to travel and be able to live.
If future tournaments are going to have the same attitude as the US Open organisers, then what sort of a message does this send out to the sport in general.
It could also have severe damaging effects on disabled athletes who only want to play sport and are not put off by their disability.
Without some money coming into their pockets, financially they will not be able to carry on playing the sport that they love, and that simply just can’t happen.