report BY PATRICK CLARK
ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – While many felt like they were baking in today’s sun, that didn’t stop the back and forth in Forest Park today.
‘I play with gloves and I had to switch them many times,’ says Stephane Houdet, a French player ranked 2nd in the world. ‘But I think it was worse for my partner because you can have blisters with the humidity here. It’s very hard to push.’
But these pros pushed through the humidity and hot temperatures for the start of the USTA U.S. open wheelchair championships.
The top 100 players in the world are in town through Sunday and chances are they’ll be checking in with Harlon Matthews for a tune up.
‘That is 85 percent of this game is wheelchair mechanics,’ says Harlon Matthews, a technician with Eagle Sports Chairs Repair.
Mathews is a technician and player in the A division, so he understands what these athletes need to compete.
‘If you’re playing shortstop, feet shoulder length apart in the ready position, that’s what we are,’ says Mathews. ‘That 20 degree camber makes the chair very responsive so that you maneuver a lot easier on the court. ‘
While the wheels are at a 20 degree angle, the tires take up to 140 psi.
Today they lowered the pressure to 110 as temperatures reached the upper 90’s.
Play this morning started at 9:30 because of the heat, but these players didn’t miss a beat with this world competition.
‘Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t do something and tennis is a sport that I recommend for anyone to get involved in,’ says Lucy Shuker, a Paralympian athlete who has competed in Beijing and her native London.