An adaptation of one of the most popular sports in the world, Wheelchair Tennis appeared in 1976 in the United States. In January of that year, the American acrobatic skiing athlete Brad Parks suffered an accident during a warm-up jump and was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury.
During rehabilitation, Parks heard about Jeff Minnenbraker, an athlete from Los Angeles who was trying to play Tennis in a wheelchair, but allowing the ball to bounce twice on the court. Months later they met and began discussing the possibility of people with disabilities playing the sport.
In 1977 Parks customised his own chair and began to promote Wheelchair Tennis in exhibition matches with Minnenbraker. Three years later there were more than 300 Wheelchair Tennis players in the United States and the sport's first regulatory body was created in partnership with the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
The new sport reached Europe and Asia in the following years, and in 1988, Wheelchair Tennis was played as an exhibition sport at the Paralympic Games in Seoul, in the Republic of Korea. In the same year, the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation was founded (IWTF).
The sport's definitive entry into the Paralympic programme happened in Barcelona in 1992. In addition to being a Paralympic sport, wheelchair tennis has its own world circuit, comprising over 100 tournaments, as well as world rankings for men and women in singles and doubles under the aegis of the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
There are two sport classes in Paralympic wheelchair tennis: the open class, designed for athletes who have significant and permanent impairment in one or both legs, but normal arm function; and the quad class, for athletes who have an impairment that affects their arm function, as well as their legs.
One of the main differences between wheelchair tennis and the conventional version is the two-bounce rule: in wheelchair tennis, the ball may bounce twice before it must be returned to the other side in order not to lose the point. In contrast, in conventional tennis, the ball may only bounce once. The wheelchairs used are sports chairs, with adapted wheels which offer more balance and mobility. The rackets and balls are the same.