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Tennis & Table Tennis

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Both Tennis & Table Tennis are available for individuals with Intellectual Impairments with or without mobility impairments. Both sports can be played by people with nearly every disability & allows both sportsman who use wheelchairs & those who don't, to participate. Both these sports are available at the Special Olympics, while only wheelchair tennis is available at the Paralympics. Athletes receive classifications, so that they can be grouped for competition purposes according to their impairment. Both sports are played at social, club & Provincial level, as well as at International level.


Wheelchair tennis is one of the forms of tennis adapted for those who have disabilities, it welcomes people with nearly every disability. It is even suitable for people in electric wheelchairs. As an integrated sport, able-bodied people are welcome to play. Disabilities include spinal cord injuries, amputation, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and many more.

The size of courts, balls, and rackets are the same, but there are two major differences from pedestrian tennis, the athletes use specially designed wheelchairs and the ball may bounce up to two times. The second bounce may also occur outside the court.

Wheelchair tennis is one of the official Paralympic sports and also played at Grand Slams. There are three categories; Men, Ladies, and Quads and each category has singles and doubles tournaments. Quads is the category for those with quadriplegia and it is sometimes called Mixed especially at Paralympic Games. Quads players can hold rackets taped to the hand and use electric-powered wheelchairs.

South African Wheelchair Tennis

Wheelchair Tennis is one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the world. The ITF considers South Africa one of the global success stories in introducing the sport, making Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) one of the top wheelchair tennis structures and nations in the world.

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) was established as a non-profit company in 2005 when a handful of players, including Craig Fairall and Kevin Smith, came together with a collective vision of formalising and developing wheelchair tennis into a mainstream sport.

WTSA was initially aligned with SASAPD (South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled), but has recently closely re-aligned the organisation with TSA (Tennis South Africa) as its mother body. WTSA is also affiliated to the ITF (International Tennis Federation).

The ITF has sighted South Africa as a global success story for the introduction and growth of the sport. As a result of this recognition, South Africa now hosts six tournaments on the NEC World Wheelchair Tennis Tour including one of only 6 Super Series (Premier events) offered each year.  WTSA also hosted the Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup in 2011.

WTSA now has sustainable sports programmes running in each of South Africa’s 9 provinces to introduce and offer wheelchair tennis to as many physically disabled individuals & communities as possible. Through these programmes people with disabilities are given the opportunity to learn a new skill and excel at a sport. Players are continuously developed and discovered through these programmes from introduction to the game, to ultimately, representing South Africa internationally. To find out more, you can visit their website at:

Major tournaments

International tournaments are organized by International Tennis Federation as a Uniqlo Wheelchair Tennis Tour. In wheelchair tennis there are five top-ranked major tournaments called Super Series (SS); Australian Open (Melbourne), British Open (Nottingham), Japan Open (Iizuka), US Open (St. Louis) and French Open (Paris, BNP Paribas Open de France).

The World Team Cup is an international team event held annually. To wrap up the season, they have NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters (singles event) and Uniqlo Wheelchair Doubles Masters tournaments which only world top-ranked players can compete.
The top eight men and women based on the ranking after the US Open at the end of the year compete to be the champion of the year. In addition, Grand Slams, Australian Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and US Open have each created wheelchair tennis category.

It is also played at Paralympic Games and FESPIC games as well. In 1990 wheelchair tennis was played at the abled bodied event in Miami, this lasted for more than 15 years. The Wheelchair Tennis Class 8s at the 2002 Australian Open saw competitive wheelchair tennis take place at the same time and the same venue at a Grand Slam for the first time.
In 2005 the Masters series was created, comprising all the events at the Grand Slams and the end of year championships, as Wimbledon and the US Open joined Melbourne.
In 2007 Roland Garros joined and the Classic 8s were replaced by the Australian Open which had been held at the same venue two weeks later. In 2009 all events played at the abled bodied Grand Slams were renamed Grand Slams.

The Netherlands has dominated numerous victories at major tournaments including Paralympic Games and Grand Slams.


Wheelchair tennis increased in popularity in 1976 due to the efforts of Brad Parks, who is seen as the creator of competitive wheelchair tennis. In 1982, France became the first country in Europe to put a wheelchair tennis programme in place. Since then, much effort has made to promote the sport to rid it of its 'therapy' image that still affects many sports for people with disabilities.

The sport quickly became popular worldwide and was introduced to the Paralympic Games as a demonstration event at the Seoul 1988 Summer Paralympics. It was at the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona that wheelchair tennis acquired the status of a full-fledged competition.
The 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney boosted public awareness immensely & led to the introduction of the sport to Grand Slams of pedestrian tennis.

For the 2013 season the ITF decided to adopt match tiebreakers in place of a third and deciding set in doubles matches. However the tiebreaker would only be used at events which were rated as ITF1 or lower and at the World Team Cup. The grand slams however were free to decide on the format of their tournaments.

Table Tennis

Table Tennis or Para Table Tennis is a disabled sport which allows both sportsman who use wheelchairs & those who don't, to participate. Athletes receive classifications, so that they can be grouped for competition purposes according to their impairment.

Table Tennis was included in the first Paralympic Games in 1960. Athletes from all disability groups, with exception to the visual impaired participate and compete in Table Tennis in standing and sitting classes. Men and women compete individually, in doubles, as well as in team events. Para Table Tennis also appears on a lot of multi-sporting event programs.

Para table tennis follows the rules set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The usual table tennis rules are in effect with slight modifications for wheelchair athletes. Athletes from disability groups can take part. Athletes receive classifications between 1-11. Class 1-5 are for those in wheelchairs and class 6-10 for those who have disabilities that allow them to play standing. Within those groups the higher classification means the more function the athlete has. Class 11 is defined for players with an intellectual disability.

South African Table Tennis

Para Table Tennis is a very popular sport in SASAPD and is active in all provinces. The convenor for Table Tennis is Lill Bhagwan. She can be emailed at:

The South Africa Age Group Summer Games take place from March 11 to March 16.  While not a hugely important event on the international disability sport calendar, it is important on the South African and African continental intellectual disability calendar.  Taking place in Port Elizabeth, the competition also includes INAS sanctioned Cricket, Swimming and Indoor Rowing events open to participants from all African countries.  This makes it important for growing ID sport in Africa.

The IWAS U23 World Games take place from June 28 to July 3 in Prague, Czech Republic.  Formerly known as the IWAS World Junior Games, this biennial competition features Archery, Athletics, Powerlifting, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Wheelchair Fencing, Wheelchair Rugby, Table Tennis and Volleyball.  These sports are all on the Paralympic program.  Some of the world's best future Paralympians are scheduled to participate. 


The roles of classification are to determine eligibility to compete for athletes with disability and to group athletes correctly for competition purposes. Athletes are grouped by reference to functional ability, resulting from their impairment.

Sitting classes

  • Class 1:
    No sitting balance with severe reduction of function in the playing arm.
  • Class 2:
    No sitting balance with reduction of function in the playing arm.
  • Class 3:
    No sitting balance, although the upper part of the trunk may show activity.
    Normal arms, although some slight motor losses can be found in the playing hand without significant effect on table tennis skills.
    The non-playing arm keeps the trunk in position.
  • Class 4:
    Existing sitting balance although not optimal because of non-existing anchorage (stabilisation) of the pelvis.
  • Class 5:
    Normal function of trunk muscles.

Standing classes

  • Class 6:
    Severe impairments of legs and arms.
  • Class 7:
    Very severe impairments of legs (poor static and dynamic balance), or severe to moderate impairments of playing arm, or combination of arms and legs impairments less severe than in class 6.
  • Class 8:
    Moderate impairments of the legs, or moderate impairments of playing arm (considering that elbow and shoulder control is very important), or moderate cerebral palsy, hemiplegia or diplegia with good playing arm.
  • Class 9:
    Mild impairments of the leg(s), or mild impairments of playing arm, or severe impairments of non-playing arm, or mild cerebral palsy with hemiparesis or monoplegia.
  • Class 10:
    Very mild impairments in legs, or very mild impairment of playing arm, or severe to moderate impairment of non-playing arm, or moderate impairment of the trunk.
  • Class 11:
    For players with an intellectual disability.

Laws of table tennis in wheelchair

There are no exceptions to the laws of table tennis for standing players with a disability. All players play according to the laws and regulations of the ITTF. The umpire may relax the requirements for a correct service if the compliance is prevented by physical disability.


If the receiver is in wheelchair, the service shall be a let under the following circumstances:

  1. After touching the receiver's court, the ball returns in the direction of the net.
  2. The ball comes to rest on the receiver's court.
  3. In singles, the ball leaves the receiver’s court after touching it by either of its sidelines.

If the receiver strikes the ball before it crosses a sideline or takes a second bounce on his or her side of the playing surface, the service is considered good and no let is called.


When two players who are in wheelchairs are a pair playing doubles, the server shall first make a service, the receiver shall then make a return but thereafter either player of the disabled pair may make returns. However, no part of a player’s wheelchair shall protrude beyond the imaginary extension of the centre line of the table. If it does, the umpire shall award the point to the opposing pair.

Limb positions

If both players or pairs are in a wheelchair, the player or the pair score a point if:

  1. the opponent does not maintain a minimum contact with the seat or cushion(s), with the back of the thigh, when the ball is struck.
  2. the opponent touches the table with either hand before striking the ball.
  3. the opponent’s footrest or foot touches the floor during play.


Wheelchairs must have at least two large wheels and one small wheel. If the wheels on the player’s wheelchair become dislodged and the wheelchair has no more than two wheels, then the rally must be stopped immediately and a point awarded to his or her opponent.

The height of one or maximum two cushions is limited to 15 cm in playing conditions with no other addition to the wheelchair. In team and class events, no part of the body above the knees may be attached to the chair as this could improve balance.

Equipment and playing conditions

A player may not normally wear any part of a tracksuit during play. A player with a physical disability, either in a wheelchair or standing, may wear the trousers portion of a tracksuit during play, but jeans are not permitted.

Table legs shall be at least 40 cm from the end line of the table for wheelchair players. In international competitions, the playing space is not less than 14m long, 7m wide and the flooring shall not be concrete. The space for wheelchair events may be reduced to 8m long and 6m wide. The flooring may be of concrete for wheelchair events, which is prohibited on other occasions.


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