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Pro Media & News

Stroud's homecoming highlights Paralympians' week at Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier

Victoria Chiesa | April 16, 2022


ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Since he won his first professional wheelchair tennis title eight years ago, North Carolina's Conner Stroud has represented the U.S. around the world and at the highest levels of the sport. This week at the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Ukraine in Asheville, N.C., the favorite son had a happy homecoming.

 

Stroud, 21, got his start in tennis in his hometown of Rutherfordton, N.C.—about an hour from Asheville—and he’s subsequently risen into the Top 50 of the ITF/UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour's world rankings. Last summer, he represented the U.S. at his first Paralympics, but this week, he was back to being “one of ours,” according to USTA North Carolina executive director Kelly Gaines.

 

“This has been one of the closest events to my house in the last two years it was here [in 2018 and 2019] so I really enjoy coming to watch, and the atmosphere is great,” Stroud said.

 

“I know a lot of the tennis folks around here so it’s nice to see some familiar faces, and to be up there and participate in the draw was really cool. It’s so exciting to be able to showcase some of our tennis to the fans.”

As part of the USTA’s commitment to fully integrating the sport, top-ranked U.S. wheelchair tennis players have been invited to participate in the pageantry at Billie Jean King Cup for the first time this week after they first did so at Davis Cup in March. Integration like this is an initiative that has been gathering momentum at the association over the last year-plus, and last summer, the nominations for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic teams were announced simultaneously as one Team USA.

 

Stroud participated in the tie's official draw ceremony on Thursday, and along with teammates Emmy Kaiser and Dana Mathewson and coach Paul Walker, joined in several community activations; they played tennis with able-bodied adults, helped put on a wheelchair tennis clinic, and met with two USTA Foundation National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters before cheering on the U.S. team from the sidelines over the weekend.

On Friday, the group also met with Billie Jean King, and on the second day of match play, they showcased their top-level wheelchair tennis to the fans in attendance at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in an exhibition match.  

 

“For us, it’s really exciting,” Kaiser said. “The Olympics and Paralympics were the first time that we were united as a team, in all of the preparations, all of the announcements and stuff, so it’s really cool to be able to follow that up and show that it’s not just for the Games, that we’re going to keep doing this as one U.S. team. That’s really cool to see.”


The USTA is donating 10% of the gate revenue from the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier towards the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by Global Giving, supporting humanitarian relief on the ground during the war in Ukraine, through the Tennis Plays for Peace Initiative. Join our collective effort in providing financial support for Ukraine by donating now at tennisplaysforpeace.com.

 

All photos: Mike Lawrence/USTA

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