A two time Paralypmic bronze medalist, singles and doubles champion at the National Wheelchair Tennis Championships and 6-time Grand Slam finalist, GLL Sport Foundation supported athlete, Lucy Shuker, talked to us about some of her career highlights so far and all things tennis ahead of Great British Tennis Weekend.
What is your career highlight so far?
I think for me it is still being part of Paralympics GB at the London 2012 games and then winning the Bronze Medal match in front of a home crowd with lots of my family, friends and support team there to see. The stadium was packed and I’ll never forget being on the podium.
Plans for the next 4 years? Tokyo?
I’m working towards my fourth successive Paralympics where I would love to add to my two Paralympic Bronze Medals from London and Rio.
I still have other career goals such as winning a Grand Slam and would love to achieve that in the next Paralympic cycle and even push for a different colour medal.
How has the GLL Sport Foundation helped you and your career?
The support from GLL has been instrumental in supporting my training set up ahead of Rio 2016, allowing me to access training courts and facilities. The financial support has also assisted with training and competition costs.
I am delighted that GLL are continuing their support of me, which will continue to allow me to access quality facilities and coach support in pursuit of my career goals.
Wheelchair tennis has seen real growth and exposure in recent years, how has this changed to previous years?
I think since the London 2012 games the profile and coverage of Paralympic sport has been improving all the time. Wheelchair tennis in particular has seen some real growth over the last 12 months, which has been accelerated by the success of the wheelchair tennis team at the Rio 2016 Paralympics where we achieved a record 6 medals.
The inclusion of the singles event at Wimbledon for the Men’s and Women’s divisions in 2016, formerly a doubles only event, has also increased media exposure and interest in our sport with over 1 million viewers tuning in. We now have singles and doubles events at each of the 4 major tennis Grand Slams and compete alongside the able bodied players. It is however an achievement to qualify for the Grand Slams in wheelchair tennis as the draw only includes the top 7 players in the world plus a wildcard.
What is the biggest challenge for people wanting to take up wheelchair tennis?
When I first came out of hospital and was introduced to wheelchair tennis the biggest challenge for me was raising the funds to be able to buy my own tennis wheelchair.
The Tennis Foundation are doing some great work now with wheelchair tennis development and are able to support new players with resources, training and equipment. They have also recently entered into a partnership with ROMA Sport and are able to offer bespoke cost effective tennis wheelchairs for new players.
What advice would you give to any junior players or youngsters thinking of picking up the sport?
Tennis has changed my life and opened so many doors, I can’t imagine where I would be now if I wasn’t playing tennis. Having had an accident at 21 years old, being in a wheelchair was initially a big shock for me, but through tennis I have met so many wonderful people and had so many fantastic experiences and life long memories.
I would definitely encourage anyone to pick up a racket and have a go at tennis no matter your ability or your disability it is a great social sport and you never know where it might take you. I certainly didn’t envisage when I first picked up a racket that I would go on to win 2 Paralympic medals.
If you could sum up tennis in 3 words, what would they be?
Fun, challenging and competitive.
We’re hosting 17 Great British Tennis Weekend events this May, what impact do these kind of initiatives have on the sport?
These weekends are a great opportunity to have a go and try tennis and wheelchair tennis.
It is fantastic that GLL are offering these opportunities for people to come and try tennis and I hope that it encourages more people to get involved as tt really is a sport for all and you can build life long friends and memories.
Thanks Lucy, it was great catching up with you.