US Open Makes History with Expansion of Wheelchair Championships
June 24, 2022
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., June 22, 2022 – The USTA announced that the US Open Wheelchair Championships presented by Deloitte will again expand in size, with expanded fields in the men’s and women’s divisions and the introduction of the inaugural US Open Junior Wheelchair Championship. This is the second consecutive year that the US Open is expanding the wheelchair field, and this increase in field size for the men’s and women’s divisions is the single-largest draw expansion in Grand Slam wheelchair history. In advance of the 2021 US Open, the quad draw was doubled in size, increasing from four to eight competitors.
The two key elements of this latest expansion of the US Open Wheelchair Championships are doubling the size the of the women’s and men’s singles and doubles draws from eight singles players and four doubles teams to new draw sizes of 16 women, 16 men, eight women’s doubles teams and eight men’s doubles teams; and the introduction of US Open Junior Wheelchair Championships with draw sizes of eight girls and eight boys.
The men’s and women’s events see an increase of 16 players. The larger draw sizes will provide opportunities for professional wheelchair tennis players to compete on the Grand Slam stage and earn valuable ranking points and prize money.
The goal of creating the US Open Junior Wheelchair Championships is so that other young athletes with disabilities can continue to aspire to the highest levels of competition. These Championships will showcase the world’s top junior wheelchair tennis players on the US Open platform.
The USTA recently became the first national governing body in the world to fully integrate professional wheelchair competition operations within its able-bodied Pro Tennis Operations equivalent. It is the next step in furthering the USTA’s commitment to the inclusive growth of the sport.
“The USTA remains committed to providing more opportunities at the highest level of our sport,” said Stacey Allaster, US Open Tournament Director. “We are honored to be able to serve as a global leader, and to continue to follow in the US Open’s overall goals of inclusivity and equality when it comes to the US Open Wheelchair Championships. We hope that this is a catalyst for the continued growth of wheelchair tennis, the most effectively integrated and inclusive Paralympic sport in the world.”
“The expansion of the wheelchair tournament at the US Open and the addition of the inaugural US Open Junior Wheelchair Championship are inspirational enhancements to one of the greatest events in all of sports,” said Billie Jean King, the former US Open champion and tennis icon, who has long championed equality in all fields. “These new opportunities provide growth at multiple levels, allowing more players to compete in the US Open and providing more opportunities for fans to enjoy world class tennis.”
ITF President David Haggerty added: “The ITF is excited and supportive of the USTA’s leadership to grow professional wheelchair tennis, enhance the junior pathway, and be the first Grand Slam to have a fully integrated Junior Wheelchair Championships within our able-bodied US Open Junior Championships.”
Former players also reacted positively to the news. The first wheelchair player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the co-founder of wheelchair tennis, Brad Parks, said: “It is so hard to believe how far wheelchair tennis has come from when we first started playing in the mid-1970s. Never did I think the day would come when wheelchair tennis would have a full draw at the US Open playing alongside the world’s greatest professional players. In addition, having the world’s top junior wheelchair tennis players playing alongside the world’s best able-bodied junior tennis players is beyond incredible! The USTA has really stepped up to the challenge of being the world’s leader in developing the sport of wheelchair tennis. All I can say is thank you. ”
“It is amazing news on how the US Open is growing and making the effort to continue the development of wheelchair tennis,” said Esther Vergeer, 48-time Grand Slam champion and seven-time Paralympic gold medalist. “What is also amazing is to see the quality of play and level growing, so it suits to have this opportunity created. It is great that the US Open wants to take on this responsibility. What is also incredible is the amazing opportunity for the juniors to play in such an environment. That is the best inspiration and motivation to go and get the best out of yourself.”
“It’s so great that this is a reality,” said International Tennis Hall of Famer David Hall. “The US Open, since 1980, has been the historical heartbeat of the sport. America led the way in so many ways through the decades, as wheelchair tennis went through many changes worldwide, greater professionalism, more tournaments, camps and players coming into the sport. “This expansion of the US Open Wheelchair Championships is another leap forward in showcasing this great sport and maintaining that the game’s heartbeat is now stronger than ever.”
Rick Draney, who was instrumental in the development of the quad division in the United States was also excited about the historic announcement. “This is incredible news for wheelchair tennis,” Draney said. “Kudos to the USTA for their leadership and for furthering the vision of those who have advocated on behalf of wheelchair tennis since its inception. It will be exciting to see the immediate and long-term impacts this will have upon the entire spectrum of participation and competition in wheelchair tennis.”