The College of William and Mary McCormack Nagelsen Tennis Center hosted the Truong Wheelchair Tennis Grand Prix Finals over the weekend. It is the center’s third year hosting the United States Tennis Association Wheelchair Singles and Doubles Tournament.
Play officially began Saturday at 9 a.m., but the tournament hosted a “run and roll” social Friday, open to all players and community members.
“My favorite part of the tournaments was on Friday night, when we had what we call our run and roll social,”
Donny Weed, USTA event manager and community tennis director, said. “The wheelchair players were combined with some of the players of the men and women’s teams here. The team was fantastic, and the tournament players loved it so everyone had a great time.”
Since the tournament’s debut in 2009, it has grown every year, attracting players from all over the East Coast.
“We started out with 14 players, and now we are up to 19 players,” Weed said. “Each tournament we are growing, getting a little bit bigger. We had a lot of guys come out here from New Jersey and New York.”
Organizing a wheelchair tournament can be complicated and requires work beforehand in order to make sure facilities can accommodate the players.
“The biggest thing is making sure everything is wheelchair accessible,” Weed said. “So whatever sport center you are going to have it at, has to have, obviously, easily accessible by wheelchair courts, facilities and things like that. And, in addition, when you have a tournament hotel, you have to make sure that it is also wheelchair accessible.”
Weed worked closely with Tom Hawkins, USTA Director of Tennis at the center, to ensure that it would be made wheelchair accessible for the tournament.
“We had to move some things around to make it more accessible,” Hawkins said. “Luckily this facility, when it was designed, was made to be very wheelchair accessible. This is the third year we’ve done it, and each year
it gets a little better. These guys are fabulous, out there playing. They really do a great job.”
For USTA player Bruce Patton, it was this tournament in Williamsburg that got him back into the sport.
“I played for probably 10 or 12 years, but then I had some injuries and some kind of life changes going on, so I got out of the sport,” he said. “So exactly one year ago, I came and watched the tournament here and got caught up in it again, and I thought ‘Well, if my body would let me play, I’d love to play again’. I started playing tournaments again this summer, and this is my third tournament this year.”