ITF launches official anthem to celebrate wheelchair tennis anniversary

Featuring British songwriter Alexander Joseph and wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley, the song is available on iTunes. 09 Apr 2016
Woman in a wheelchair on a blue tennis court trying to reach a ball

Great Britain's Jordanne Whiley at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

ⒸLieven Coudenys
By International Tennis Federation

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Thursday (6 April) the launch of the anthem ‘A Racket In Hand’ to celebrate the 40th anniversary of wheelchair tennis. Written and performed by British songwriter Alexander Joseph, and featuring vocals from British wheelchair tennis player Jordanne Whiley, the song is available to download from iTunes.

Joseph also works with Whiley and other British players in his role as a strength and conditioning coach for the Tennis Foundation of Great Britain. Proceeds from the downloads will go towards the ITF’s Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund. To listen to an excerpt from the song please click here.

The Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund was set up in 2002 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of wheelchair tennis in 2001. The Development Fund, previously known as the Silver Fund, aims to establish sustainable wheelchair tennis programmes in developing nations through the provision of tennis equipment and technical expertise and the identification of local partners who will take the programme to self-supporting levels.

The Fund has received support from the Johan Cruyff Foundation since 2003, and has supported wheelchair programmes in over 40 countries, providing children with impairments and adults with opportunities to enjoy an active and rewarding life.

Wheelchair tennis is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016, having been founded by American Brad Parks in 1976. Injured during a freestyle skiing competition when he was 18, Parks began experimenting with tennis as recreational therapy, and wheelchair tennis was born.

Parks and several other athletes with impairments began playing and promoting wheelchair tennis in numerous exhibitions and clinics in the US. The sport quickly grew as a result of this high exposure level, and in the 1977 the first wheelchair tennis tournaments were held.

Wheelchair tennis quickly became one of the world’s fastest growing wheelchair sports, earning entry into the Paralympic Games in 1992. The sport became fully integrated into the ITF in 1998, making wheelchair tennis the first disability sport to achieve such a union at international level. The Wheelchair Tennis Tour originated in 1992 with 11 international tournaments, and it has grown to its current total of over 150 tournaments in more than 40 countries, offering over USD 2 million (EUR 1.8 million) in prize money.

Wheelchair tennis’s 40th anniversary year will see wheelchair singles events staged at all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time, while the 2016 Paralympic wheelchair tennis event will be held in Rio de Janeiro in September.

Joseph combines his work as a strength and conditioning coach with songwriting, He has worked across a range of sports including bob skeleton, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis, and is involved in a number of music projects associated with the 2016 Paralympic Games. Joseph said: “Music and sport will always be a big part of who I am. They are an incredible way of connecting people and have the power to inspire change.”

Twenty-three-year old Jordanne Whiley is already a seven-time Grand Slam champion, winning the 2015 US Open alongside six doubles titles. She partnered Japan’s Yui Kamiji to the women’s doubles Grand Slam in 2014, and is bidding to compete in her third Paralympic Games in Rio.

Whiley said: “I’ve been a singer my whole life, but not many people know about it. It was great to work on the record with one of my coaches. This anthem will be pushed out all the way to Rio to raise awareness of wheelchair tennis. People can buy it and all the money goes back into the sport.”