How Do Wheelchair Tennis Players Serve The Ball?

Last updated on September 28th, 2022

Wheelchair tennis players have limited options for serving the ball. It may seem minor, but it can affect their game. 

There are many different types of disabilities, and each player may have more than one. So the idea that wheelchair tennis players have to serve the same way, with a similar technique as someone without disabilities, is absurd. 

One of the difficulties of wheelchair tennis is ensuring your arms are over the wheels when you serve. If you are an avid player or want to join a team, you are surely aware of this problem! 

Several factors affect a player’s ability to serve the ball in wheelchair tennis. A proper setup is critical for wheelchair tennis players. One important aspect to consider is the speed of a player’s racket. It can affect the ball’s velocity and the player’s ability to hit it.  

Racket Setup 

When starting wheelchair tennis, it’s important to understand that a different grip is required than a traditional racket. That is because wheelchair users must hold their racket while pushing their wheelchair.  

Beginners often prefer to hold the racket in their lap and push, making it difficult to return an opponent’s ball. Racket setup is also important in the game’s early stages when it’s easy to fall onto the court. 

  • One of the key features of a wheelchair tennis racket is its flexibility.
  • This feature allows wheelchair tennis players to easily reach balls and play the game with as much convenience as their standing counterparts.  
  • The International Tennis Federation (ITF) regulations for wheelchair tennis stipulate that players can use rackets that are longer than standard ones. 
  •  Aside from making the game more accessible, wheelchair tennis also helps people with physical disabilities stay physically active. 
  • Among the most important aspects of a wheelchair racket setup is ergonomics. The chair can be adjusted to the wheelchair’s dimensions.  
  • A wheelchair tennis racket should have a backswing angle that facilitates a controlled swing.
  • The seat and handle should be wide enough to allow a wheelchair user to reach the ball.  
  • An ergonomically designed backrest allows wheelchair players to move freely without stress.     
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Another important aspect of wheelchair tennis setup is the seat belt. Wheelchair tennis players must use a seat belt to provide stability, and the racket should be adjusted to provide maximum comfort. This helps players enjoy the game without worrying about their handicap.  

This setup can also help wheelchair tennis players to improve their performance. However, some adjustments may be necessary, and it’s important to consult with an experienced wheelchair tennis coach. 

Racket Velocity 

  • The racket velocity of wheelchair players varies by stroke type, but the absolute racket velocity is nearly identical.  
  • In addition, wheelchair players generate higher racket velocities at the pre-impact point, especially for flat and lateral serve strokes.  
  • However, these differences do not affect the quality of racket velocity during the serve. 

To determine whether racket velocity affects the ability of wheelchair tennis players to hit the ball, researchers conducted an experiment in which able-bodied participants performed several tests simultaneously.  

The participants performed a 10-min directed warm-up, which included joint mobility, circular movements simulating hitting, and low-intensity accelerations. Participants performed the tests three times, once with and without the racket, resting two minutes between each repetition. The researchers recorded each participant’s average racket velocity (SV) using Chronojump software, which has a 0.001 s error. 

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The study results indicated that power loss occurs both before and after the push, and participants must compensate for this to keep speed. The submaximal propulsion test also showed wheelchair tennis players experienced lower push times and shorter contact angles than able-bodied athletes.  

As such, ineffective propulsion may lead to upper-extremity injuries. This study supports the notion that wheelchair players are similarly at risk of shoulder joint injury. 

In contrast to conventional tennis, wheelchair tennis is a highly specialized sport. In addition, the sport is a Paralympic sport that has attracted the attention of athletes with disabilities. Further, the development of wheelchair tennis has resulted in the professionalization of top wheelchair tennis players. 

Creating realistic training environments simulated in competition situations may help these athletes improve their performance. In addition, physical trainers must be aware of the factors that affect the performance of WT athletes. 


1. Double Bounce Rule  

The double bounce rule in wheelchair tennis is the main rule of the game. A player is given two bounces of the ball on the first serve. The second one may be inside or outside the court boundaries.  

It was first introduced during the USTA’s membership boom in the 70s. The double bounce rule is a significant change from standard tennis, where a player is only allowed one bounce. It is also an important safety rule that makes wheelchair tennis more accessible for players with disabilities. 

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After hitting the ball, players are allowed two bounces of the ball, with the second bounce being either inside or outside the court boundaries. There are no restrictions on the side of the court where the ball lands.  

A wheelchair tennis player may bounce the ball two times on the opponent’s side or over the side or the edge of the court. A wheelchair tennis player can only take two bounces of the ball during a game, but they must make at least one of them before hitting the ball. 

  • In wheelchair tennis, players must set up their equipment before the match. 
  •  Failure to do so will cause the referee to default the match. 
  •  Players with limited capacity may also propel their wheelchair by using one foot.  
  • The double bounce rule will not be enforced if the wheelchair is propelled with only one foot or if it cannot propel the wheelchair through the wheels. 
  • However, violating any rule of the sport will result in a forfeit of a point.  

2. Seat height 

Seat height for wheelchair tennis players should be fixed so that a player’s buttocks remain in contact with the seat during play. To secure the wheelchair player, strapping can support the buttocks.  

If the wheelchair height is adjustable, a player can still play tennis comfortably. The wheelchair should fit a player’s height and weight. 

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The seat height for wheelchair tennis players should be comfortable 15cm above the ground. While a higher seat can give a wheelchair player more reach and allow them to better see the court’s boundaries, they are less stable and make balance more difficult.  

The perfect seat height depends on the player’s needs and preferences. Try different heights and see which one is most comfortable. In addition, seat height is related to power shot performance. Players who perform power shots should opt for a seat with a low backrest. 

3. Timing of serves 

When serving a ball in wheelchair tennis, the arm and shoulder flexion and extension times must be optimal. A wheelchair player cannot use his or her legs to produce speed and agility, which increases the risk of injury.  

Shoulder flexion and extension timings are particularly important for wheelchair tennis players, as the shoulders are heavily used to measure the effectiveness of a shot. If the shoulder muscles are overstretched, the shot can result in injury. 

Good tennis serve is one of the most important parts of a game because it is the best chance for a player to score points. It can be the difference between winning or losing a game. 

Problems: Shoulder Joints 

Shoulder complaints are common among wheelchair tennis players. In addition to shoulder dysfunction, a high prevalence of rotator cuff pathology is a common finding. Symptomatic shoulder pathology in wheelchair tennis players may be related to musculoskeletal adaptations and other factors.  

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A thorough evaluation must rule out a cause and propose appropriate treatment options. Unfortunately, the findings of various studies suggest that shoulder complaints in wheelchair athletes are not uncommon. 

In this study, the scapular kinematics of wheelchair tennis players were compared to able-bodied participants with or without shoulder impingement. Both groups were exposed to high loads during follow-throughs.  

Shoulder pain is associated with asymmetry in the scapular kinematics. Therefore, the resulting shoulder arthrography can provide valuable insights into the underlying mechanism for shoulder pain in wheelchair tennis players. 


A wheelchair tennis player serves the ball by using a combination of arm and hand movements. For example, the player pushes the chair’s wheels forward, bends their knees, and then swings their arm backward. This motion causes the ball to fly out of its hand upward. 

The service is a powerful shot that can score points or disrupt an opponent’s play. However, it’s also happns to be one of the most difficult shots in tennis because it requires precision and timing. 

Wheelchair tennis players have to be able to serve the ball to win a point. They are not allowed to bounce the ball off of their wheelchairs. They have three options for serving the ball:  

  • they can push it with their hand,
  • they can kick it with their foot, or  
  • they can propel it using a device attached to one of their wheels.   
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The player will use whichever method is most convenient for them, depending on what is their position on the court and what kind of spin they want on the ball. 

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