Gordon Reid is back on Hilton Head Island, ready to defend his four consecutive singles titles in the Professional Tennis Registry's $17,500 Wheelchair Championships. But he isn't the only one with something at stake this weekend.
Fifteen-year-old Chris Herman, arguably the next big player in wheelchair tennis, will take the courts over the next few days as he continues his climb up the rankings. So, too, will Lucy Shuker, who won a gold medal in last year's London Paralympics. The pair are part of a larger-than-usual draw in the 26th edition of the USTA Southern Fall Championship event, tournament director Julie Jilly said.
"The exciting thing this year to see is the large increase in women and juniors," she said. "We've never had such a large women's draw, which is fantastic."
Sixteen women and six juniors will participate in this weekend's event, which will take place at Chaplin Park and Hilton Head Island Motorcoach. Herman and Shuker, one of the top 10 players in the world, headline their respective divisions, which include men's, women's, quads and juniors players competing in singles and doubles.
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Lynn Seidemann, 49, will be the only woman competing in the men's division.
"It's really good to see," Jilly said. "Those are two groups that there's just not that many players. It's so great that they're starting to get into the sport."
Herman is expected to become the next top American male in the next two years, Jilly said. He can only hope to follow in the path of Reid, a 19-year-old who currently finds himself ranked in the top five in the world. He recently competed at Wimbledon, medaled in the London Paralympics and will try to up his win streak to five in this weekend's event.
He helps comprise a tournament that features 85 players in all, representing 14 different countries.
"I've got a great group of athletes coming in," Jilly said. "It's exciting. ... This is the end of their season, basically. It's a great way to finish."
Play begins at 8 a.m. Thursday and Friday. The final two days get underway at 9 a.m. The finals will be held Sunday at Chaplin Park with a wheelchair tennis instruction course slated to follow. Admission is free.
PTR $17,500 Wheelchair Championships
What: A four-day wheelchair tennis tournament featuring some of the world's top players.
Where: Chaplin Park and Hilton Head Island Motorcoach, Hilton Head Island
When: Thursday through Sunday; Matches begin at 8 a.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.