‘It is going to be another fantastic week for wheelchair tennis’
The Wheelchair Doubles Masters is being held in De Schaapskooi in Bemmel for the second year in a row. The contest for the world title for doubles players is a major event on the calendar and a fantastic opportunity to reacquaint the Netherlands with the sport’s world class players.
National coach Dennis Sporrel looks back on the first event in the De Schaapskooi sports hall in Bemmel with great pleasure. “It was very well organised. The players and coaches were very enthusiastic about the venue. Everyone had put a lot of effort into it, which gave it a positive vibe. And it’ll be the same this year, it will generate a lot of energy.” The facilities in Bemmel are good. Sporrel gives the hotel as an example. “Players don’t have to travel far because there’s a good hotel nearby. At tournaments in other countries you sometimes find yourself having to spend a long time on the road. So here it’s really great.”
The Wheelchair Doubles Masters is a special event. “We also had the World Team Cup in Apeldoorn, it’s a nice double. Nearly all the top players will be at the Wheelchair Doubles Masters. Some great pairings will be in action.”
The world class players in Bemmel are a great example to enthuse people for wheelchair tennis. “It’s important that every child with a disability, but also every adult, is able to take part in sport. Whatever their age.” Stephane Houdet is the oldest participant in the Wheelchair Doubles Masters. The Frenchman is 47 years old and still has a ranking in the top ten wheelchair tennis players. “He has huge experience and is a good tennis player. Wheelchair tennis is developing massively and he is still trying to improve on all fronts. With his equipment, for example,” Sporrel explains.
In June of this year the Minister of Medical Care and Sport, Bruno Bruins, concluded the National Sport Agreement with sports federations, municipalities and social organisations and companies. Part of this first Sport Agreement is inclusive sport. All sports in the Netherlands are making the transition from adapted sport to inclusive sport and exercise. Barriers due to someone’s age, physical or mental health, ethnic background, sexual orientation or social position are being removed. Exclusion is being tackled.
Wheelchair tennis plays a major part in the plans of the Royal Dutch Lawn Tennis Federation (KNLTB). The federation wants to increase the importance of tennis for Dutch society by getting even more people to play more tennis. To get society exercising and keep it moving. To make people fitter and healthier. And to bring people together and to get them to work together, no matter their age, origin or gender. Even as a wheelchair tennis player you can improve yourself, as Dutch world class players such as Diede de Groot, Aniek van Koot, Marjolein Buis and Maikel Scheffers and Tom Egberink have been proving for years.
According to Sporrel, the basis for wheelchair tennis is with the clubs. “The clubs, the KNLTB and the Esther Vergeer Foundation are putting a lot of energy and effort into it. We are giving clinics with the Esther Vergeer Foundation. And now we are also finding our way into rehabilitation centres. We have a great campaign plan to enthuse as many people as possible about wheelchair tennis.”
Tournaments such as the Wheelchair Doubles Masters and the World Team Cup certainly help towards introducing people to wheelchair tennis. “Tremendously. During the tournaments we have also held many clinics for schoolchildren, to show them what wheelchair tennis is about and to enthuse them about the sport.” The tournament in De Schaapskooi in Bemmel is going to be another fantastic week for wheelchair tennis. “I’m sure of it. Definitely.”