Top wheelchair tennis athletes compete for season-end championship

Top-ranked American woman Dana Mathewson is happy tennis tournaments are back in full swing. 

"It’s great to just have tournaments come back again. As a tennis player, we’re used to being on the road and competing all the time, so it felt weird to have really long training blocks," Mathewson said. 

The NEC Wheelchair Singles and UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters didn’t happen last year because of the pandemic. 

"To get all the competition back and finally get out playing again, especially after the rough couple of years. Just feels good to see everybody on tour," former UF Gator Chris Herman said. 

The singles event features the top eight men, women and quadriplegic players. The wheelchair doubles field is made up of 18 different pairings.

It’s a round-robin-style tournament with the knock-out round and finals taking place later in the week. 

All of the athletes are competing for a year-end championship. 

"We’re athletes who just happen to be in wheelchairs. It’s not like we’re wheelchair athletes, and it’s like it’s amazing that they got out of bed and are also playing tennis. At the end of the day, we’re high-level athletes," Mathewson said. 

Mathewson moved to Orlando last year to strictly focus on tennis. She trains for hours on end at the USTA campus.

It’s paying off as she continues to climb the world rankings. 

"We work just as hard as able-bodied athletes. We have the same training regimens, coaches, nutritional aspect. All that stuff is the same. We just move a little differently," Mathewson said. 

The tournament runs through Sunday. The event is free for fans.