31 Aug 2014

Wheelchair tennis: Britain’s little-known champion

Sports reporter

Jordanne Whiley is on the verge of becoming the first British tennis player to hold all four grand slam titles – so why don’t we know about her?

Jordanne Whiley isn’t a name most people will be familar with.

But it should, and in seven days there’s a strong chance it will be.

Whiley is Britian’s number one wheelchair tennis player, and a Paralympic Bronze medalist at London 2012.

But most significantly, she holds three of the four major grand slams, and if victorious will become the first British wheelchair or able-bodied player to hold all of them in the same calender year.

The US Open is well underway, but the wheelchair competition begins this week and Jordanne Whiley is flying the flag for Great Britian – both in the singles, but also in the doubles, where the 22-year-old really hopes to make her mark alongside her doubles partner Yui Kamiji from Japan.

Don Budge, Rod Laver and Steffi Graff are the only players to have held the grand slam record of four in one year – but none of those is British.

Role model?

This potential piece of British history – like Whiley’s win at Wimbledon this year – hasn’t been highlighted, but she is used to her sport not getting the attention she feels it deserves.

“Wheelchair tennis has never really got the credit it deserves,” she says. “But it’s such an amazing sport, and whenever people see it they always ask me ‘why isn’t this on TV?'”.

Being a role model isn’t something she’s particuarly interested in, but the poor representation of strong and ambitious women in the limelight is a bug-bear for the Paralympian.

“It frustates me that so many women on television are such bad roles for young girls,” Whiley says.

Wheelchair tennis: Britain's little-known champion Jordanne Whiley

“They don’t look real or are just famous for no real reason. It’s a bad image for youngsters. My dad was my role model and that’s a big part of my success.”

Exaclty halfway between London 2012 and Rio 2016, Whiley is focused on improving on her bronze medal at the Paralympics in two years.

But if she can navagate her way to victory at the US Open this week, she might just find herself with the opportunity to become the role model she says is needed.