Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis Championships growing again in 2022
For the fourth year running, the USTA's National Collegiate Wheelchair Championships will be a reflection of the sport's exponential growth at the intercollegiate level.
A total of 32 individuals from 12 colleges and universities will arrive at the USTA National Campus next week to compete in this year's event from April 13-16, and nine of those schools will vie for the team title. Both totals are all-time highs in participation, which has grown steadily in every edition since 2017. The first-ever national championship was held in 2000 and has been held annually ever since, though the 2020 edition was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide, led by longtime head coach Evan Enquist, will arrive in Orlando as the five-time defending champions and winners of six titles overall, while the University of Michigan also returns after finishing as runners-up in a Cinderella debut 12 months ago. They'll be joined in the team competition by Auburn University, Clemson University, Eastern Washington University, Jefferson State Community College, Michigan State University, San Diego State University and the University of Houston.
"After the 2021 Collegiate Wheelchair Nationals at the USTA National Campus was held with a record number of schools and participants, I thought that we all may have arrived. I was wrong—we are still growing, as the 2022 event will see further record growth in both of the team and individual competitions," Jason Harnett, the USTA's director for wheelchair tennis, said.
Affiliated players from the University of Arizona, the University of Alabama - Huntsville and the University of Virginia will compete alongside athletes from the above schools in the individual event. These are players eligible to represent a school by having personal or professional ties, and geographic proximity, to that school's wheelchair tennis program, and participating in university-sponsored practice sessions.
With seven players, Alabama boasts the most robust roster of all the teams in the field. All four players who helped the Crimson Tide win last year's championship are returning, including senior Thomas Venos, the squad's top player and the 'A' flight individual singles champion last year, and graduate student Lauren Haneke-Hopps, the second-highest American woman in the ITF world rankings (No. 48) behind world No. 9 Dana Mathewson.
Individuals will compete in a three-tier system divided into the following brackets, based on the USTA's co-ed national wheelchair tournament eligibility guidelines: ITF Open & USTA A; USTA B & C; and USTA C & D. An individual national champion will be crowned in each of the three tiers. The team format consists of one doubles match and two singles matches, with the winning team crowned national champions.
"Thanks to these thriving wheelchair tennis and adaptive athletics programs, more opportunities have been created for young people to enjoy the junior competitive pathway, go onto higher education and to experience the life of a collegiate student-athlete," Harnett added. "There is no question that the future of wheelchair tennis, and specifically, that of the collegiate wheelchair tennis space, has been secured."
Collegiate wheelchair tennis is organized by the USTA and supported by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), the governing body of college tennis, bridging the gap between junior play and the professional tour. Its three-fold purpose is to grow the sport, encourage individuals with disabilities to pursue a college education, and give students with physical disabilities an equal opportunity to compete in intercollegiate sport as a representative of their institution.
Play begins daily at the National Campus at 9 a.m. For more information, visit the USTA Collegiate Wheelchair National Championships homepage.
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