Vancouver will be home to the best wheelchair tennis players from around the country this week, as the Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships return to the University of British Columbia Tennis Centre. Taking place from October 27-30, the tournament will feature over 35 players contesting for national crowns in three categories.
Two-time Paralympian Philippe Bedard will be aiming to clinch his fourth straight men’s singles crown. Bedard, who competed in Rio this summer and is currently ranked world No. 70, also is the five-time defending champion in doubles.
“I’m really looking forward to being a part of nationals again this year,” Bedard said. “First of all because it’s in Vancouver, the most beautiful city in Canada. And second, to see all my Canadian wheelchair tennis friends. It’s always special for me to play for national championships, as it brings back great memories from the past years.”
At world No. 24, defending quad champion Rob Shaw will be the top-ranked player in Vancouver. The 26-year-old and his doubles partner Gary Luker, last year’s singles runner-up, will be hoping to continue their recent domination of the quad division. Making her return to nationals as well will be British Columbia native Sarah Hunter. An 11-time quad singles winner, Hunter’s career-high world No. 2 standing from 2003 makes her the highest-ranked Canadian wheelchair tennis player in history.
Rounding out the field will be the women’s draw, with No. 82-ranked Maude Jacques looking to repeat as champion. Winning her first national title last year, Jacques will face stiff competition from BC’s Tara Llanes, world No. 57, and Kirsten Sharp, No. 92.
Being hosted in Vancouver for the second straight season, the Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships is one of the biggest and most important wheelchair tennis events played in Canada each year.
“BC Wheelchair Sports is very excited to be hosting the 2016 Birmingham National Wheelchair Tennis Championships at the beautiful UBC Tennis Centre, building on the success of 2015,” said Gail Hamamoto, executive director for BCWSA, the host organizer. “We are grateful for the support of our partners, including Tennis Canada, the Province of British Columbia, ViaSport, City of Vancouver, UBC and the Birmingham Family. We are pleased to host the country’s best players as they compete for national titles, and we look forward to creating lasting legacies for the sport of wheelchair tennis.”
The next generation of wheelchair tennis stars will be showing off their skills as well, as BC’s own Tomas Bourassa and Thomas Venos will be playing in the men’s division. The two 17-year-olds are promising young talents, ranked world No. 17 and No. 23 in juniors.
“Tennis Canada is excited the Birmingham Nationals will be hosted by the BC Wheelchair Sports Association at the UBC Tennis Centre for the second year running,” said Janet Petras, director of wheelchair tennis, Tennis Canada. “BCWSA brings a level of expertise and management to the event, making it first-class. This week will showcase all of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis athletes as they vie for the national singles and doubles titles.”
Admission is free for fans to attend all four days of the event at the UBC Tennis Centre and check out high-quality wheelchair tennis up close. The sport, which offers a professional circuit with over 140 events across the globe and more than $2 million in prize money, follows the same rules as able-bodied tennis with the small exception that two bounces are allowed.