2021 College Wheelchair Tennis Championships boasts largest field in history
Twelve months after it was initially anticipated, 20th anniversary celebration of the USTA Collegiate National Wheelchair Championships will go on.
After last year's event was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the championships are set to return to the USTA National Campus in Orlando next week with the most robust field in tournament's two-decade history.
Eight schools from five states have fielded teams for this year's competition, which runs from April 15-18: Auburn University, Biola University, Clemson University, San Diego State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan.
In addition, athletes from the University of Colorado are scheduled to compete unattached. Affiliated players are eligible to represent a school by having personal or professional ties, and geographic proximity, to the school's wheelchair tennis program. This includes participation in university-sponsored practice sessions.
"With eight schools in the team competition, and 27 athletes in the Individual competition, this will be the largest Collegiate Nationals in the event's history. This shows that all of the hard work put into promoting and lifting collegiate wheelchair tennis is taking hold and the momentum is real," said Jason Harnett, co-tournament director and national head coach and manager for USTA Wheelchair Tennis.
"After a one-year hiatus for this event, when 2020 would have been the 20th anniversary of collegiate wheelchair tennis being founded, we are beyond excited about this year's competition at the USTA National Campus here in Orlando."
The Alabama Crimson Tide is the event's defending champions dating back to 2019, where the school captured its fifth team title. Georgia State University won the first edition of the event in 2000, pioneering for wheelchair tennis and adaptive sports along the way.
Along with its largest-ever field, the 2021 tournament will feature singles and doubles draws with both individual and team competition. Individuals will compete in a three-tier system divided into the following brackets, based on the USTA's new, co-ed national wheelchair tournament eligibility guidelines: ITF Open & USTA A; USTA B & C; and USTA C & D. The team format will consist of one doubles match and two singles matches, with the winning team crowned national champions.
Rio Paralympian and Team USA World Team Cup member Shelby Baron, the current chairperson of the USTA Wheelchair Committee's collegiate sub-committee, helped Alabama win four of its five titles all-time at the event, including its last to date.
Two years later, she now hopes to help the program continue its dynasty as a coach.
"I know the competition will be fierce as teams have been training hard and itching to compete," Baron said. "For most people, this will be the first tournament they will have competed in one year. I am excited to watch the event as teams compete for the trophy wearing their school colors."
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