‘We have been shouting for it for a long time’ – Shuker wants increased wheelchair draw

  • Posted: Jul 11, 2019
Wimbledon 2019 on the BBC
Venue: All England Club Dates: 1-14 July
Coverage: Watch live coverage of the wheelchair competitions on BBC iPlayer, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and app from Thursday, with Saturday and Sunday’s finals live from 11:00 on BBC Two.

Two-time Paralympic bronze medallist Lucy Shuker has called on Wimbledon organisers to consider increasing the draw sizes for wheelchair tournaments.

Shuker, 39, is ranked world number nine but will not compete at SW19 after missing out on a wildcard.

Only the top seven plus a wildcard compete in the men’s and women’s wheelchair events, and top three plus a wildcard in the quads event.

“We have been shouting for it for a long time,” Shuker told BBC Sport.

“Wimbledon have been so supportive of wheelchair tennis in showcasing it on some of the show courts and putting it on TV, which is fantastic, but could they get behind it even more?

“They were the first to announce the inclusion of quads, and then Roland Garros announced it and now the quads are in all four Grand Slams.”

Shuker said she believes wheelchair tennis in the UK is the “best it has ever been” with a promising junior division emerging. However, she added that depth is not being rewarded with the opportunity to play at the Grand Slam tournaments.

“The depth has grown so much that players who could be competing at Grand Slams are missing out because we are confined to an eight-person draw,” she said.

“This, in the past, has been where you have had the previous year’s finalists drawn together in the first round, it could be world number one versus world number three, for example.

“For many players, it doesn’t seem fair. We deserve to have more players, more seedings and then it will become more representative of what the level of tennis is.”

Jordanne Whiley – Shuker’s partner when winning both her Paralympic doubles medals – was awarded the wildcard despite being ranked below Shuker at the entry deadline; she had usurped Shuker as British number one prior to the meeting to determine wildcard places.

Shuker said she agreed with the decision despite being “disappointed” not to be at Wimbledon for the first time in a decade.

  • Whiley returns to Wimbledon after having son

‘It would be a positive step forward’

In comparison to the smaller Grand Slam draws, next year’s Paralympics in Tokyo will see a 56-strong draw in the men’s events, 32 in the women’s events, and 16 in the quads.

Tournaments at Masters level, Super Series level and lower all have bigger draws but the most ranking points are available at Grand Slams.

The Wheelchair Tennis Tour is managed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), although the size of Grand Slam draws is a matter for individual tournaments.

“It would be a real positive step forwards, it would potentially lead to more Brits playing next year, which is a Paralympic year,” added Shuker, who is vice chair on the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Player Council.

“I appreciate the implications on prize money, courts and the number of players that would then be there, but I also believe they would be able to cope with it. I also think the level of tennis would deserve it.”

A Wimbledon spokesperson (AELTC) told BBC Sport it recognised the increasing popularity of the sport and following the purchase of Wimbledon Park Golf Club would have more room for more courts.

“We are in the early stages of developing a new AELTC Master Plan for the entire 120-acre site, and it is absolutely one of our priorities to consider how the increased space for additional courts could assist us in expanding the size of the wheelchair draws,” said the spokesperson.

A spokesperson for the ITF told BBC Sport: “The size of the draw at the Grand Slams is a matter for individual tournaments but we are open to discussion with the Grand Slams, our Player Council and other stakeholders.”

Shuker said there had been a rumour among players that the French Open was considering a 12-player draw for 2020.

However, when approached by BBC Sport, Roland Garros said it could “not confirm” Shuker’s comments, adding: “It is not the case for the moment.”

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