Ruddington wheelchair tennis star and Tokyo Paralympics hopeful James Shaw believes that he has returned to on-court training stronger and fitter following the COVID-19 Coronavirus ‘lockdown’.
Villager James, who turned 25 this week, says this is thanks to support he’s received from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the national governing body of tennis. He’s just resumed training in Loughborough and remains focused on future goals – hopeful of being able to compete in front of home fans in Nottingham later this year.
He reveals: “Training is pretty much back to normal now. I’m still doing all the gym stuff that I was doing in the house, and I’m back to hitting a couple of times a week with my coach Martyn Whait in Loughborough, where I’m getting quite a bit of match play with the different British juniors that Martyn coaches, since they’re not back at school yet. I’m being cautious, of course, but I’m just really enjoying being back on court.”
James was one of the last title winners on the international wheelchair tennis tour before the suspension of tournaments in March, having won the quad doubles at the ITF 3 Arizona Open in Tucson. However, the world No.19 has found the break from competing has enabled him to build his fitness back here in Ruddington…
“The equipment the LTA gave me has been so, so important and I’m actually in better condition than I was before lockdown because it’s the first time in a long while that I’ve been able to just have a maintenance and conditioning programme without all the travelling in between” he says. “I’ve been able to get the numbers up and make some big improvements. I got an FK Pro bodyweight suspension system, some wheelchair rollers to allow me to maintain pushing and a pull-up bar. I’ve been really motivated and taken it as a chance to almost start again and come back stronger. I’ve been determined to just work on all the little things that I’d not had chance to work on for a while.”
James documented the training he was doing during ‘lockdown’ in this video created by broadcaster and journalist James Pegg:
The six-time National champion and former Great Britain World Team Cup gold medallist had his hopes of representing his country in the 2020 World Team Cup ended by the pandemic after this year’s event planned for May was cancelled. However, instead, James has enjoyed other challenges.
“For whatever reason I’ve never been able to do a proper pull up, so that was one of the challenges I set myself and now I’m able to do something like 28 pull-ups, so it’s great. I’ve improved a lot” he beams. “And every week or so I know I can catch up online with the LTA physio Sam and strength and conditioning coach Alex. I’ve been recording all my exercise data to give back to Alex and Sam and I’ve been able to see the numbers go up over the time we’ve been in lockdown, so that’s helped to keep me motivated. But the whole time away from the courts has made me realise just how much I really miss tennis.”
With all major international tennis tours currently suspended until August, the ‘British Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships’ scheduled for Nottingham Tennis Centre in late July has been cancelled, but Shaw is still hoping to get the chance to compete on home soil at Britain’s biggest wheelchair tournament outside of Wimbledon.
“It’s really disappointing not to have the British Open in July” says James. “It’s a real highlight on a personal level, just to be able to have the home crowd and also being able to speak to the local school kids and get them into a tennis wheelchair. But the LTA have left it open to the possibility of being rescheduled later in the year and hopefully that will happen.”
With the International Tennis Federation announcing this week that world rankings of 7th June 2021 will be used to determine entry lists for the Tokyo Paralympic Tennis Event, the Ruddington star will hope that his current fitness will help him reach new heights on the tennis court when international competition does resume.
Reflecting on his most recent title in March, partnering the USA’s three-time Paralympic gold medallist David Wagner, James adds: “I was playing well and it was great winning the title in Arizona and partnering David. I learnt a lot from him just in the space of the couple of matches I played with him. It seems a long time ago now and playing tennis now is quite a bit different to the training I’ve been doing indoors for over two months, but because I’m fitter and stronger I’m enjoying being able to do a lot of tough training at the moment.”