A Paralympic Preview: Wheelchair Tennis

With the Paralympic Games rapidly approaching, Report On Rio will preview every event that has a Canadian team competing in Brazil — featuring past results, schedules, rosters, and expectations.

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Philippe Bédard will be appearing at his second Paralympic Games in Rio this summer.

Canada has never been able to serve and rally its way to a wheelchair tennis medal since the sport was added to the Paralympic lineup in 1988 at the Seoul, South Korea Games.

White Rock B.C’s Sarah Hunter has performed the best of the 12 Canadian wheelchair tennis Paralympians throughout history by advancing to the quarter-final of mixed quad singles at the 2004 Athens Games. Great Britain’s Peter Norfolk bounced her from the tournament by sweeping both sets, 6-3 and 7-5.

No other Canadian, male or female, has ever made it past the round of 16.

It was announced in July that Philippe Bédard, a resident of Bromont, Que., will be Canada’s lone representative in the Paralympic wheelchair tennis tournament in Rio.

Bédard made his Summer Games debut in 2012 at 31 years old. Qualifying for the round of 32 was a significant achievement for the three-time Canadian champion considering he had only started playing the game in 2009.

His quest to achieve even greater heights at the Paralympics will begin on Sept. 9 at the Olympic Tennis Centre. The men’s championship final is slated to take place on Sept. 16.

Road to Rio:

Official confirmation was given to Bédard in late June that he had secured a spot in Rio.

No individual competition allowed him entry into the Paralympic tournament. Instead, he

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Bedard is ranked 40th in the world.

was one of 12 male wheelchair tennis players that received an official invitation from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Wheelchair Tennis Committee to participate in the competition.

The Canadian Paralympic Committee had to submit an official letter to the ITF for the 35-year-old Bédard to be considered for this invite.

This process was a necessity considering he is not listed as one of the top 34 wheelchair tennis players in the world in the rankings released on May 23. The Canadian was 43rd in the world at the time. He has risen to 40th in the rankings as of Aug. 14.

 

                                                       Previous Paralympics:

2012 London Paralympics (Men):

  • Philippe Bédard defeated Moroco’s Lhaj Boukartacha in round of 64,  7-5 and 6-2.
  • Bédard beaten by Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in round of 32, 6-0 and 6-0.
  • Joel Dembe beaten by Great Britain’s Dave Phillipson in round of 64, 6-2 and 6-2.

2008 Beijing Paralympics (Men):

  • Lee Carter beaten by Slovakia’s Jozef Felix in round of 64, 6-4 and 6-3.
  • Matthieu Yan beaten by Great Britain’s Dave Phillipson in round of 64, 6-3 and 6-1.

2008 Beijing Paralympics (Women):

  • Yuka Chokyu beaten by the Netherlands’ Korla Homan in round of 32, 6-1 and 6-2.

2008 Beijing Paralympics (Mixed Singles):

  • Sarah Hunter beaten by the United States’ David Wagner in round of 16, 6-3, 4-6 and 6-4.

Meet Bédard:

Arguably Bédard’s finest moment on a tennis court to date came last year at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto. He and doubles partner Joel Dembe (Toronto, Ont.) finished in third place at the para-continental event to capture the first wheelchair tennis medal in Canadian history.

He has added three ITF championships to his trophy case following the Parapan Ams. These three tour victories occurred in  Puerto Rico, Niagara Falls and Windsor.

Bédard’s surge of recent success has the Tennis Canada brass excited heading into Rio.

“We are so wildly proud of Philippe and everything he has accomplished,” said Kelly Murumets the president and CEO of Tennis Canada. “He could not be more deserving of this honour. We know he will represent Canada well and be an excellent ambassador for both our sport and our country in Rio.”

Canada’s wheelchair tennis Paralympian vows to reward this faith in him by representing “Canada this summer in Rio with the determination and the intensity” that got him there.

     Expectations

Certainly it would be unfair for Tennis Canada to expect Bédard to have a great opportunity to earn this country its first ever wheelchair tennis Paralympics medal considering he is not amongst the top 10 men’s singles players.

A more realistic target for Bédard is to improve upon his results from four years ago by cracking the round of 16. It is very likely that he will find a way to produce a better effort in 2016 considering he is coming into these Games with seven years of experience instead of three.

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