On August 2nd the ITF made some changes to the way Wheelchair players are classified. Classification is a detailed process by which a player’s physical disability is assessed, and the players are required to show medical evidence of their condition.
The “bottom line” of this is that some players have been “de-classified” and therefore can no longer compete in certain events including the Paralympics.
De-classification is like a disqualification, which suggests it is with immediate effect.
However, although the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) has sanctioned the changes, the ITF has decided that the changes will not take effect until 2022, so AFTER Tokyo.
This means that players who are no longer eligible to compete are still allowed to play in Tokyo.
Needless to say, there is much anger and disbelief among the “legitimate” players who are now in their build-up to Tokyo 2020.
You can read full details about the changes on the ITF website by clicking here.
Although I’ve watched wheelchair tennis many times on television and enjoyed following stars like Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley compete in the Paralympics and at Wimbledon, last weekend’s British Open in Nottingham marked the first time I had actually attended a live wheelchair tennis tournament.
At the end of a fantastic day watching some of the world’s top players, I definitely came away from the Nottingham Tennis Centre wondering why I hadn’t attended in previous years or indeed followed the sport more closely in general.
Despite a disappointing loss for Andy Lapthorne in the Men’s Quad Singles final, I very much enjoyed watching three closely fought contests and often found myself marvelling at the high quality of tennis on display. The bad weather meant that all matches were played indoors, but in some ways that added to the experience because it meant that you were much closer to the action than would otherwise be possible. There’s also something about indoor tennis that enhances the atmosphere and excitement.
Later in the day I met up with Jo Vince, a fellow BATS member and regular volunteer at the tournament. Jo has followed wheelchair tennis closely over the years and has a real passion for promoting the sport to a bigger audience.
Jo’s involvement meant that we were lucky enough to have an opportunity to meet and sit down with two-time Grand Slam singles champion and Paralympic Gold medallist Gordon Reid.
During our chat, we asked Gordon about his thoughts on whether he believed there had been a noticeable difference to the sport since the LTA took over the wheelchair game. Although this change happened relatively recently, he seemed quite positive about it and said he believed promoting wheelchair tennis under the LTA banner is a good thing for the sport.
My overriding impression after visiting the tournament is that wheelchair tennis has fantastic potential to grow and gain in popularity beyond the level it is at today. With the LTA’s involvement and tournaments like Wimbledon placing a greater emphasis on the wheelchair event, more people will get to experience the excitement of playing and watching this compelling sport.
Despite this, promoting wheelchair tennis is still very much a work in progress. From a BATS perspective, it is also our belief that we need to be more visible at the wheelchair events. If you get the opportunity, I would really encourage you to visit the tournament next year and experience it for yourself. Together we can do our bit to promote the sport and put wheelchair tennis more firmly in the spotlight.
Contribution by Janice North, a BATS member – April 2019.
I joined my fellow BATS supporters on Day 2 of the Fed Cup play-off between Great Britain and Kazakhstan, and what a thrilling day of play we were all treated to.
This play-off would be the fifth in eight years whereby Great Britain had sought promotion to the World Group and with the score from the previous day standing at 1-1, both teams still had everything to play for.
First up on Day 2 was the battle of the respective team number 1’s, Johanna Konta and Yulia Putintseva. The gutsy Kazakh took the first set 6-4, prompting an immediate and defiant response from Konta in the second set. She systematically muted the noisy Kazakh band’s drums and trumpet throughout by breaking Putintseva twice, winning 68% of the total points to take the second set 6-2 and level the match.
With momentum now clearly with our Brit, a slightly reserved optimism was in the British crowd, as we were all too mindful of Putintseva’s ability to come from behind to win.
However, it was Konta who prevailed, demonstrating dogged determination to fight back from a 1-4 deficit. A time violation which had preceded a double break against her, fuelled a spectacular and steely comeback. Konta went on to win 16 of the last 19 points to secure her 11th successive Fed Cup singles victory, leaving the door well and truly open for her team mate Katie Boulter.
With the score now at 2-1 to Great Britain and just the one win required to secure promotion to the world group, the stage was set for the No2 showdown between Katie Boulter and Zarina Diyas.
Having just watched Konta’s fight back, Boulter knew she had everything to play for. However, a very close first set which culminated in a tiebreak, resulted in a flattening 1-7 loss of the set. Furthermore this was swiftly followed by Boulter going down a break in the second set too and for a time it seemed that Boulter was losing her grip on the match, just as Diyas appeared to be enjoying an apparent ascendancy. However the fortuitous sounding of a car alarm going off heralded a double-faulting which allowed Boulter back into the match to level at 2-2.
By this time, some drums had been acquired from seemingly nowhere by some of the British spectators which helped to match the resurgent cacophony of the Kazakh band. At this point, the atmosphere in the Copper Box Arena began to reach fever pitch, propelling Boulter onwards to break again and take the second set 6-4.
The third and final set produced nothing short of a spectacular whirlwind of determination from Boulter who romped through the gears to a 5-1 lead, with one game left to play, to serve out for victory. She held firm, taking the match on her third match point with a thumping ace, to the delirious joy of the crowd and her fellow team mates.
The whole Great Britain team, Jo Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Swan, Harriet Dart, together with their coach Anne Keothavong, all of whom had been like a coiled spring courtside, raced onto the court to embrace Boulter in her moment of glory and proceeded to celebrate together with a joyful dance of thoroughly deserved triumph, which was wonderful to behold.
This victory for Great Britain has ended a 26 year wait for Fed Cup promotion and while Britain will no doubt face stiff competition against the world’s elite, at the very least, Britain’s victorious Fed Cup team will finally start next year in the higher echelon. We await news whether this will be in World Group II or in the revamped World Group with a fighting chance to lift the Fed Cup trophy.
Our heartfelt and proud congratulations to you all on your achievement.
I am thrilled to have been invited to write this article on our latest Davis Cup tie. Sadly this was the last tie in the old and much loved format, but still the tie which would uniquely determine if we would be seeded or not in the new format coming into effect next year.
This home tie saw a return in venue to the Emirates Arena in Glasgow and along with a few others, I flew up on the Thursday evening, just in time to join other BATS members for a little soirée at the Society Room, a Wetherspoons pub in the city centre. This was the perfect opportunity to collect tickets, greet fellow members and get kitted out in BATS attire in readiness for a weekend of very vocal, rousing support for our team!
Both Terry and I had chosen to stay at the Sandyford Hotel in the West End of Glasgow, which subsequently turned out to be ideally located within a stone’s throw of a couple of excellent restaurants we discovered for dinner at the weekend – a most opportune discovery, for as we know only too well, all this cheering & flag-waving to Back Our Brits is hungry work!
Day 1 was to provide us with an epic seven and a half hours of tennis, comprising two thrilling 5-set matches. First up was Dan Evans of GB in his return to the Davis Cup team vs Denis Istomin, Uzbekistan’s No1 ranked player.
Evans took the first set on a tiebreak, with Istomin levelling the match with a second set win. It was then that things went a little awry for Evans, with Istomin bageling him in the third. However, this ignited a defiant and determined fight back from Evans, taking it to a fifth & final set in which he overcame a stunned Istomin.
Next up was Cameron Norrie vs Djurabeck Karimov, a hitherto relatively unknown quantity before the match, who to expected form lost the first two sets to Norrie, but then just as we were anticipating a fairly predictable straight sets win, then proceeded to inexorably turn the match around, starting with an unexpected tiebreak win in the third and going from strength to strength to secure the win in the fifth set, thus notching up a 1-1 tie at the end of play.
Day 2 of course was the doubles with our long-established team of Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot vs Denis Istomin and Sanjay Fayziev. With some wonderful shot-making from both teams, it was Team GB who prevailed with a straight sets win, bagelling the Uzbeks in the third and giving us a 2-1 lead in the tie going into Day 3.
On arriving at the stadium on Sunday, the published first match was of course expected to be the reverse singles, with Cameron Norrie due to play Denis Istomin. However, it was announced that unfortunately due to an ankle injury, Istomin would be replaced by his previous day’s doubles partner, Sanjay Fayziev.
We had been agog with speculation on how Cameron Norrie would rise to the challenge after his tough defeat on the first day, a defeat which was almost the mirror image in reverse of his 5-set victory over Bautista Agut in the Davis Cup tie in Spain earlier in the year. We were not to be disappointed though. A clearly determined and resolute Norrie systematically dismantled the talented Fayziev’s game in less than two hours, to produce an impressive straight sets win, with another bagel in the 3rd to take Team GB to a 3-1 victory over Uzbekistan.
It was then with some dismay that we learnt there would be no further play that day! Now, bearing in mind we’d barely passed 2pm, we had hoped at the very least to be treated to a single set exhibition match. Sadly, this was not to be and in spite of our win, there were many of us who felt rather subdued and flat as we left the stadium.
For me personally, I took the opportunity to work off my disappointment with a brisk run that afternoon, taking in the sights of the botanic garden, the university and the art gallery before meeting for another sumptuous banquet in the evening!
As I write this, we are still awaiting the draw to announce who our opponents will be in February and in so doing, find out whether we will be home or away. Leon Smith has already stated his fervent hope that the ITF grant us one of the two available wildcards and in so doing sidestep February and join the four semi finalists from this year’s tournament, France, Spain, Croatia and the United States advancing straight through to the finals in either Madrid or Lille in November.
Wildcard or no wildcard, home or away, I for one will be there Backing Our Brits again. Thank you BATS for another wonderful & memorable Davis Cup weekend. Roll on February!
Back in 2015 I was living in Budapest, and noticed that Great Britain were taking part in the Fed Cup that week in the city. I’d not been to watch any live tennis since going to Wimbledon in 2006 (!) but regularly watched major tournaments and Davis Cup on TV, so thought I’d pop along. I didn’t bother with the first day against Lichtenstein because it didn’t seem worth it, but the next morning we had Turkey so I got on a tram to SYMA.
I didn’t expect two things that day – one, that there would be a decent core of British support; and two, that we’d lose the tie! I left shortly after the second rubber in minor disgust, but came back the next day for what turned out to be an epic against Ukraine. I won’t go into details of the games because you can read that elsewhere, but some overly-fussy security not letting me sit behind one end where I wanted to watch meant I ‘accidentally’ ended up in with the BATS over on one side. Being there on my own, and living in a foreign country, I quite enjoyed being able to sit with some people from my own country and could talk to! I will always remember Sue Richardson obviously seeing the terror in my eyes at all of these middle-aged (mainly female) tennis fans and inviting me to sit with them; but everyone was very welcoming and within about 15 minutes Mary offered to ‘sign me up’ – “Is that what you kids call it these days?” I replied, thankfully everyone laughed and I knew I was in good company!
About four months later I was lucky enough to go to our home Davis Cup tie at Queens via BATS, which was something I’d not really considered doing before. It was a whole new world to me that people were going to home and away ties, although I’d often watched on television and thought “WHO are these people going to Luxembourg for tennis?!” With Fed Cup going to Eliat the year after and Davis Cup being in Glasgow, I didn’t attend much for about a year. Then we draw Serbia away. Aside from it being pretty close from Budapest, it was actually almost on ‘home ground’ for me as I studied Serbian at university. I was really happy to be able to write a whole guide of tips and things for people about Belgrade, and I didn’t expect so many people to actually come up and thank for me for how useful it was when we were there!
Fed Cup in Tallinn followed by the infamous playoff in Constanta. This was the first time I stayed in a hotel with other BATS (previously using Air BnB) and I really enjoyed the whole thing. Then this year in Tallinn, and suddenly we draw Japan away. I think this is the thing I probably have BATS to thank for the most. I’d always wanted to go to Asia and this was a perfect excuse, but being able to do it with a handful of other people was just amazing and pushed me over the line to book it. We all booked flights based on a very loose itinerary, worked out Air BnBs/Hotels, and had an unbelievable 10 days in a truly fascinating country. 8,000 miles is a very long way from home when you lose as all of us who went can confirm, but I would not have traded that trip for anything.
So if I think back to when I casually decided to “pop along” to see what it was all about in Budapest, to then travelling all the way to Japan to see a Fed Cup tie, I am incredibly grateful to BATS for basically being an organisation that puts like-minded people in touch with each other.
I would highly recommend anyone to join that’s looking to go to things and would enjoy meeting up with other tennis fans all over the world, or organising trips to events. Sure you get some people who are very in to certain players, or others who prefer this tournament over that, but in general everyone just enjoys watching tennis.
And don’t be put off by tennis fan clubs being generally populated by middle-aged/retired people either!
The British Association of Tennis Supporters (BATS) has been in existence for almost 40 years and has a growing membership, currently standing at more than 900. The Association facilitates large attendances at Davis Cup ties both home and away. In addition, we arrange trips to the Fed Cup and other ATP World Tour events. In short, we have an intense interest in any proposed changes to the current Davis Cup format.
BATS meets annually at a sports hotel in Basingstoke for our AGM and most recently we gathered in March. As you might expect, the Davis Cup arose as an agenda item in addition to social media discussions involving the wider membership. BATS members appear to be of one voice in relation to the current proposals and it is right that we share this with you in advance of August when we understand this matter will be decided upon.
As experienced Davis/Fed Cup fans, we understand that highly ranked players do not always participate as part of their national team. This can of course be a strength as up and coming players have the opportunity to excel. Cameron Norrie did just that in Marbella earlier this year. We also understand that tennis players have a very busy schedule and, given there is little advantage to Davis Cup participation in terms of finance or ranking, motivation to take part is likely to be low. On the other hand, it is very clear indeed that players in some cases are highly motivated to win the Davis Cup at least once for their country. Once achieved, they are then likely to take a break or just play in one tie. The link between Davis Cup participation and the Olympics does have an effect on players’ willingness to play and we would anticipate that this requirement would remain.
BATS has a major concern that the motivation to change the Davis Cup format does not take account of fans in any way at all. We worry that the changes are more motivated by money and some senior player needs, and that this event will be concentrated during one week at the end of November in far away places such as Singapore.
We do not have to remind you of the kind of atmosphere generated at a home tie in Davis Cup. Fans are not only prepared to travel to Europe or further afield, but actively embrace the prospect, often to the point of over subscription, which clearly illustrates the zestful enthusiasm of our fans to support such an event. Fed Cup events with multi teams taking part only show such vigorous support when the home team makes an appearance. For example, support for the Estonian team most recently.
The proposals as they stand will offer the rich tapestry of 18 national teams in one week but it seems to us that such a large event will have to be staged far away from where most fans actually live. Even the most committed of us are not likely to travel to Asia on an annual basis in order to support our national team. In other words, this will not be a Davis Cup tournament any more and we shall lose the single opportunity to cheer for, in our case, GB. To this end, we feel strongly that this proposed change of approach to venue i.e doing away with home and away, fundamentally and somewhat negatively alters the central and unique tenet of the Davis Cup itself.
While we do note that not all of the senior players support the change proposals, we do alsoacknowledge that the uncertainty of the current format can have a negative effect upon a player’s diary. This may offer the opportunity to move away from an annual event, rather than re-vamp the tournament completely.
BATS is well aware that tennis, like other sports, is largely resource led and it is clear that large amounts of money are at stake here to promote this annual event at the end of November. We would ask that the LTA/ITF consider the support and the commitment of home tie fans and the undoubted contribution that makes to the ability of teams to perform well.
May we suggest that a consultation period is built in so that the views of fans much more widely can be taken alongside those of business and players. Part of that consultation should outline the difficulties experienced within the current format so that we can think of compromise solutions for change that will not threaten the very essence of Davis Cup tournaments.
I must confess at the outset that I have a preference for men’s tennis, which of course is somewhat unsisterly of me, but so it is. However, the Fed Cup has rather altered my view over time, given the range of teams on offer, and a quite different experience. The dates of this tournament did not really sit too well for those of us who travelled to Marbella for the Davis Cup – some people travelled back to the UK then back out again for Tallinn. Others, like my group, headed off via Stockholm from Malaga to Tallinn. All in a day’s work you may say. We felt the travel experience was of interest.
For people not too sure how all this works in relation to the women’s team game, please do not refer to this article as a definitive analysis. Both the Fed Cup and the Davis Cup are remarkable in their complexity of zones, probably something to do with large numbers of teams. I once read a book about it all but I remain non the wiser really. What I can discuss is the most recent Tallinn experience where 14 teams were involved – quite an array of tennis spread over 4 days.
The format is round robin and with 14 teams, there were two pools of 3 teams and two pools of 4 teams. The first three days then, were spent on matches within pools as it were and the play off matches were played on the final Saturday. The prize for two of the teams was to advance to the World Group II play-offs later this month in Japan.
Serbia triumphed in their pool comprising Bulgaria and Georgia and GB were in the other pool of three. We distinguished ourselves by winning all our rubbers against Estonia and Portugal. Jo Konta and Heather Watson did well enough, and Katie Boulter and Anna Smith complemented one another as a new doubles pairing.
Hungary won their pool, needing to play 3 matches against Croatia, Slovenia and Sweden while Latvia won their group against Poland, Turkey and Austria. Jelena Ostapenko caused something of a stir as the Lativian more highly ranked star.
Our GB play off was against Hungary and we won without too much energy expended. It felt as if we should be the champions of the whole event, but the strange feature of the Fed Cup is that on this occasion, we won the right to try again for promotion out of the Euro-Africa zone 1 where we have been languishing for some time.
If you want to see the most highly ranked tennis players live, you are best avoiding the Fed Cup. The outcomes are most certainly dependent upon the extent to which the “celebrities” are prepared to turn out. Poland may have fared differently for example, had Radwanska participated. On the other hand, the Davis Cup is likely to suffer from the same thing and, at least at the Fed Cup, there are lots of opportunities to talk to tennis players and collect autographs if that is what you like. Seating is often very close to the action and the atmosphere is much more intimate. The main court had tiered seating and, of course when Estonia were playing, the home crowd was in and noisy. Otherwise, the event is a relatively quiet affair.
When GB was not playing, there was the opportunity to negotiate the snowy landscape and sight see, or venture to the Old Town or take a ride in the warm shelter of the tour bus. Thankfully not open top. We did all of those things (some of us had done the Fed Cup before in Tallinn so fond reminders were available). We also chose to attach ourselves to the Turkish team for a session, becoming very involved in the fabulous efforts of Cagla (Chaala) to overcome opponents more highly ranked than herself, of Latvian origin. So supportive were we in all the excitement that the whole Turkish team presented us with a pennant, signed by each of them. We even wondered about appearing on the Turkish Tennis Federation website!!
And so our work was done – GB overcame and moved on through. L’Ermitage Hotel in Tallinn is every bit as good as the Von Stackelbertg, although the mulled wine is not quite as some of us remember it. Nothing stays the same, this we know.
So, while Japan may be a step too far for some of us, may I recommend the Fed Cup as a feast of women’s tennis well worthwhile the effort. A return to Budapest would be most welcome for some of us.
Venue: Puente Romano Tennis Club, Marbella. Outdoor, clay.
Thursday 1st Feb
An easy transfer by bus from Malaga to Marbella and a comfortable, well-situated, reasonably priced Hotel El Faro recommended by Mary.
Tickets and T-shirts were distributed during the Thursday evening get-together in the bar and spirits were high, if not especially optimistic. Kyle Edmund, still injured following his exceptional achievements at the Aussie Open, is not playing, but surely Jamie and Dom will win the Doubles for us, so it won’t be a complete whitewash.
Friday 2nd Feb
A good hotel breakfast and amusing to see various members of the Barmy Army in a new kit – and looking younger than ever.
A free shuttle bus to the venue was much appreciated, once we found the bus stop – but oh! – the queue at the gates!
A fabulous venue, glorious sunshine and fantastic seats with a superb view of the court. What more could we want? There were large swathes of red, white and blue on all sides – 950 British supporters all willing our boys to put up a good fight. Indeed, the Brits almost outnumbered the Spaniards on the opening Friday. The volume of our support certainly did! We just wanted something to cheer and applaud and we were not to be disappointed.
Liam Broady, who had not played on clay for almost three years, was on first, up against clay court specialist Albert Ramos-Vinolas, ranked 144 places above our plucky Brit. Against all odds Broady kept Vinolas on court for more than two and a half hours. Not once did his head drop. Fired up by the crowd and relentlessly coached, counselled and urged on by Leon Smith, our Davis cup rookie had the fans enraptured and the Spaniards scratching their heads. Liam Broady gave the fans a match as thrilling as it was unexpected. A win? – No – but a magnificent start to the tie.
Could Cameron Norrie match that performance in his own Davis Cup debut? Ranked 114, he was up against the vastly experienced Roberto Bautista Agut, 23 in the world. By the start of the third set it would seem not. Despite the indefatigable Barmy Army, the flag-waving cheering and applauding BATs, the chants, taunts and whistles from all sides, by the beginning of the third set the inevitable seemed horribly near. At two sets and a break down, Norrie’s match had not soared to the heights of his colleague’s. He gave a creditable performance and played with flair and determination but he was outclassed. The fans did not lose heart, however , nor did Leon Smith – and nor did Norrie. The volume of support only increased. Miraculously, the double faults stopped and from 3-2 down, Norrie went on to win 16 of the last 20 games. The fans went wild! Unimaginable, unbelievable and how Cameron Norrie and Leon Smith smiled! Surely the most staggering Davis Cup debut performance of all time – and we were there to witness it!
The rest of the weekend’s play couldn’t possibly match up to the Friday’s. The Spanish fans woke up and came out in force on Saturday and Sunday and the final result was the expected win to Spain.
Friday’s matches will live on in our memories however, as will the glorious February sunshine and the most wonderful shoreline walk to and from the venue. Most heartening of all, we came away confident that British tennis has a hopeful future in players such as Liam Broady and Cameron Norrie.
This week sees 8 GB young women in the WTA Top 250. This is something that hasn’t happened for many years. It also compares to GB Men with only 4 Top 250 ranked players. The 8th ranked male player is ranked 424!
1 Jo Konta
2 Heather Watson
3 Naomi Broady
4 Gabi Taylor
5 Katie Boulter
6 Laura Robson
7 Harriet Dart
8 Katy Dunne
Some of these names are familiar but I thought I would spotlight some of the players who are less well known to people that don’t follow ITFs
Gabriella Taylor, 20 – Ranked 178
The progress of Gabriella was halted when she was the victim of a mystery food-poisoning scare during Wimbledon Juniors in 2016. The illness caused her to withdraw during her QF match. There was a police investigation and the episode kept her out of the game for 4 months. She returned in October that year and ended the year ranked 361.
2017 was a year of consolidation and further improvement for Gabi with 2 x 25k tournament wins. (Changwon S Korea and Navi Mumbai India) and a Year end ranking 323
In 2018, Gabi turned 20 in March and has emerged as a real force. Picking up from the win in India she has won 3 out of 4 25K tournaments (Launceston, Perth and Mildura) in Australia with a 17-1 W-L record for 2018. In addition at Mildura she teamed with fellow Brit Katy Dunne to take the doubles title.
Gabi’s latest ranking is a career high 173 and an improvement of 145 places in 10 weeks. This sees her as the new GB4 behind Jo Heather and Naomi Broady.
Her next commitment is a 60K tournament in Canberra this week seeded 7 as she moves up to the next ITF level. The new ranking also means that she will be eligible for direct entry to the qualifying events for lucrative grand slams. She has played Wimbledon qualifying 3 times as a wild card. She got her only win in 2014 aged 16 when she defeated the experienced former top 30 player Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden This was only her 3rd senior professional match! I would also expect to see her in the GB Summer WTA Grass court events as she is in pole position for the much coveted wild cards.
Gabi is based in Spain and coached by Xavier Budo and David Sunyer
Gabi is not alone in her climb up the rankings.
Other young women making moves to career-highs this week:
Katy Dunne, 23 – up to 236 GB7
Harriet Dart, 21 – up to 238 GB8
Harriet qualified in 2 x 25K events and went on to reach the final in both, winning in Altenkirchen and ending a 13 match winning streak as she lost in the final in Yokohama Japan. On her way to the final she scored an impressive QF straight sets win over Laura Robson. I have followed Harriet for many years having seen her reach an ITF final at Edgbaston aged 16.
Katy has also played the Australian events alongside Gabi reaching 1 Final (with a win over Laura Robson) IxSF (losing to Gabi) and 1xQF.