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A major setback for wheelchair tennis

Dylan Alcott’s comments yesterday describing the USTA’s decision of axing the wheelchair event from this year’s US Open programme as being ‘discriminatory’, has received plenty of support from fellow players affected by that decree!

What I think they have done is send a message to the world that the able-bodied division is the most important and the priorities for them outweigh the priorities for everyone else. Jordanne Whiley

Britain’s former world number one Jordanne Whiley endorsed the Australian’s view that it was a “a step back” for the sport, “because they obviously don’t value us [enough] as athletes” she told the Daily Telegraph, sentiments which British quad champion Andy Lapthorne echoed, declaring it was a “complete disgrace.”

“I can’t say it is outright discrimination towards disabled people,” Whiley continued. “You could say they are ageist because they haven’t put the junior event on. What I think they have done is send a message to the world that the able-bodied division is the most important and the priorities for them outweigh the priorities for everyone else.

“There were no discussions that I know of,” Whiley added. “The first I heard of it was with the statement from the US Open. We do feel like we have to fight a lot to get recognition or a quarter of what the able-bodied guys get.”

Scotsman Gordon Reid, the Paralympic champion who has won four doubles titles at the tournament and twice reached the singles semi-finals, added his concerns on Twitter.

“Massively disappointed to find out on twitter this morning that the @usopen plan on cutting wheelchair tennis from this years tournament.

“The wheelchair players have had ZERO communication or consultation from either the ITF or the Grand Slam around this decision,” he tweeted.

The wheelchair competition is not the only event to be dropped as the USTA struggle to provide a venue which is safe from the Covid-19 virus – still very much prevalent in New York – which means a reduction in numbers attending, including no spectators. The mixed doubles, legends and junior events have also been abandoned while the doubles competitions have had their fields heavily reduced.

“When you open the doors for a certain group but not the other, I see that as a discriminative action,” said Alfie Hewett, who also won last year’s singles event there. “This is our careers, we train and live for these slams similarly to ATP/WTA pros. And also depend on prize money to get by.”

The International Paralympic Committee has stepped into the fray in full support of the players with their President Andrew Parsons stating: “The International Paralympic Committee 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.

“We appreciate that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up multiple challenges for sport event organisers all around the world, but such challenges should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against a group of players and not offer inclusive competition for all.”

“There has been tremendous progress in recent years to advance wheelchair tennis and promote inclusion, not least by USTA and at the US Open.

“However, just as we cannot have a situation where athletes are barred from a sporting events on the grounds of race, gender, nationality or sexuality, they should not be stopped from competing because they play in a wheelchair.”

Meanwhile Tennis Australia has responded to Dylan Allcott’s disappointment at the USTA’s decision by stating they were optimistic about running a full complement of events in Melbourne next January.

“Dylan Alcott is a tremendous ambassador for tennis and has done a huge amount for our sport both here and around the world,” Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said in a statement on Friday.

“We understand how disappointed he is at not being able to compete at the U.S. Open this year and we look forward to seeing him back on the court soon.”

“In terms of our plans for the Australian Open … we’re optimistic about having an AO in January with all the events and all the players,” Tiley added.

“We empathise with our U.S. Open counterparts who have put an enormous amount of work into staging their event during such difficult circumstances and in these unprecedented times.”



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