Team USA wheelchair tennis players participate in Davis Cup weekend
The emphasis was truly on the word "team" at this weekend's Davis Cup tie in Reno, Nev., where three U.S. wheelchair tennis players—Shelby Baron, Chris Herman, Jason Keatseanslip and coach Jon Rydberg—joined Team USA at the men's international team event for the first time.
Their presence was emblematic of the USTA's commitment to integrating tennis. Though high-performance wheelchair players have trained at the USTA National Campus since 2018, the sport’s strategic initiatives have been seamlessly absorbed into all of organization's major business units over the last year. The once-separate wheelchair tennis department, both at the grassroots and high-performance levels, was dissolved, and its staff and day-to-day operations are now woven seamlessly into each of the USTA’s departments.
This collaboration was fully on display in Reno.
Baron, Herman, Keatseanslip and Rydberg—each of whom have represented the U.S. in the World Team Cup, the wheelchair counterpart to Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup—participated in a variety of activations with both the U.S. Davis Cup team and fans. They joined a group of high-performance juniors—who frequently are invited to U.S. Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup ties to get a taste of the highest levels of international team competition—to create one, holistic Team USA at the event. Two-time Paralympian Baron was also selected to participate in the tie's official draw ceremony with the two teams and ITF referee Wayne McKewen of Australia.
"To represent one team, supporting each other at different events, I'm so excited," Baron said. "To be here as equals as part of Team USA, rather than just as a spectator, is super awesome."
The players later took center stage on Saturday when they participated in a community day in partnership with the USTA's Northern California section—where they hit balls with local youths on introductory-sized, pop-up tennis courts—and they also played a doubles exhibition match. Similar initiatives are scheduled to take place at the U.S. Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier in Asheville, N.C. in April.
"I think this has been a goal, something in the works and brewing for a while, and now, it came to fruition. I played tennis before my spinal cord injury when I was 17 years old ... I saw wheelchair tennis about two years after I was first injured, and I was just blown away by it," Keatseanslip said.
"I've been on Team USA for about four years now, and gotten so many chances to meet and travel with new people, but Davis Cup is really full-circle for me. I watched a lot of these guys, like Mardy Fish, for example, before he retired and before my injury, so it's very cool to see him and all these guys. With Sebi [Sebastian Korda], TP [Tommy Paul], [Taylor] Fritz, we have a great generation of American men coming and it's only a matter of time before they make even more breakthroughs.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of this ... this is, for us, a huge step in terms of progress and we're just really thankful and really happy to be here."
Check out more photos from the weekend in the photo gallery below. Photo credit: Mike Lawrence/USTA.
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