Read all about tennis player Liam O’Reilly as he blogs about getting started on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
Hi everyone, I’m Liam and I’m a tennis player of the wheelchair variety. I’m currently ranked 28 in the world for singles and have been as high as 20.
I play in the quad division which is the same one as Great Britain’s Peter Norfolk (the “Quadfather”) who you may have heard of as a result of him winning four Paralympic medals and numerous Grand Slam titles! Unlike Pete, I’ve only been playing for about six years so I am still quite new to the sport in some respects. But I’ve been competing in international tournaments for the past three or four seasons and my results have been getting better and better.
I’ve only been able to start fulltime training in the past two years because before I had to work fulltime so I could fund my training and travel away to tournaments. It was tough sometimes doing 17-hour days but I wouldn’t change it for the world as playing tennis is a huge part of my life and I’m determined to succeed in the sport.
As wheelchair tennis doesn’t have the same profile as able bodied tennis, the sponsorship and prize money isn’t as high but this is improving all the time. Wheelchair tennis is now played at all of the four Grand Slams and the build-up to the 2012 London Paralympics is putting the spotlight on the sport much more.
Since 2009, when I was given a sport scholarship to study at Roehampton University and became part of TASS (the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme), I’ve been able to train much more. So I’m now getting all this extra help with the tennis and I’ll come out with a degree in Sport Psychology in just over a year – fingers crossed!
It’s all quite daunting but I’m really enjoying uni at the moment and not just because of the student lifestyle most people think of. In fact, I challenge most people to keep up with my training and university schedule!
I'm lucky enough to train all year round at the National Tennis Centre alongside some of the other British wheelchair tennis players. It’s probably the best tennis-specific facility I’ve seen so far on my travels around the world. It’s a great place to train with a really motivating atmosphere as everyone there is striving for one goal and that’s to be the best they can be.
This spurs me on a huge amount and also seeing some of the best British players (past and present) training or being around the Centre really makes me want to work harder every day to meet my targets.
At the moment I’m in the middle of a five-month training block which sounds like a ridiculously long time but has been going really quickly. It’s designed to work on all aspects of my game including the mental and physical sides.
I changed my technical coach in November so now David Knipe works with me and I have a new Sport Psychologist, Ross Wadey. Ross is working with me completely free of charge and I can’t thank him enough.
I also work with Bridgitte Swales, who is a great strength and conditioning coach and her prodigy Liam ‘Irish’ O’Connor, who is a friend and sport science student and helps me out in the gym three to four times a week. Again, this is all free of charge so Irish can gain experience and generally annoy me as much as possible!
We are currently working on getting me back out on the tour after a five-month layoff so I’m hoping to be out in Israel for the Israel Open in four weeks time, which is hugely exciting and definitely a relief as playing competitively is first and foremost what I want to be doing.
I’m training well, feeling positive and I’m hoping this year is going to be very exciting for me.
I’ll try and keep you updated as often as I can with what I am doing over the year but if you want to keep up-to-date with my latest news you can follow me on Twitter - @oreillyliam
Find out more about wheelchair tennis.