What is the Wheelchair World Team Cup?
In 1985, Wheelchair tennis expanded at an astonishing rate. Over 1,500 wheelchair players took part in 40 sanctioned events in the USA alone.
As a result, an international team competition was launched. Only six men’s teams took part. This was not because women were not allowed to participate in a ladies event; there were simply not enough women to put the event on.
The following year, the World Team Cup expanded to include ladies. At this point it was still an independent event; the ITF was not involved. This was to change in 1987, when the ITF were approached to assist in developing an international governing body for Wheelchair Tennis.
After considering rules and in consultation with the tennis nations, the ITWF was formed. The two-bounce rule was also adopted and written into the rules for wheelchair tennis officially at the ITF AGM in 1988.
The World Team Cup gained a new sponsor, the Invacare Corporation, in 1995 and became known as the Action World Team Cup. In 1997, the ITF voted to make wheelchair tennis a fully integrated part of the ITF with its own committee and department. All the while the World Team Cup was still gaining momentum.
2012 saw BNP Paribas become the lead sponsor of the World Team Cup, bringing it in line with the Davis Cup and Federation Cup. The Wheelchair World Team Cup is the Davis Cup of Wheelchair tennis, although its format is more similar to the Fed Cup than the Davis Cup.
Why it is important
Simple, it is important, because it gives wheelchair tennis players a chance to play for their countries outside of the Paralympics.
Like the world tournaments for its able-bodied compatriots, the World Team Cup is an annual event, meaning that the players get to play for their country every year.
As BNP Paribas have taken it under the same banner as the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup, the World Team Cup is treated just the same. It holds the same kudos for the players–that they can become World Champions in their sport. The honour of playing for your country–to get to the final, to play for the cup–means so much to the players. The supporters can get behind their country and players just like at the Davis Cup and Fed Cup ties.
The format of the event is a series of round robin ties, with two singles and a doubles. Then the top teams will play in semifinals to get to the final. The whole event takes place in one single location, over one week. Combined between Quads, Mens, Ladies, Juniors there is plenty of tennis to get behind.
There are two distinct types of events. Quads is for players with quadriplegia, and competitors are allowed to use electric-powered wheelchairs and have rackets taped to players’ hands. In other competitions, all wheelchairs are operated manually.
The events in 2017 took place in Italy this past week. The Quads saw GB win for the fifth time. Andy Lapthorn now has three World Team Cups to his name. USA came third as they defeated Japan in the play off.
The Men’s title went to France, as they defeated GB 2-1. USA won the junior event. China won the ladies event; USA finished fourth.