Gemma Stevenson is no stranger to tennis. When she was young she played standing tennis all through school and as an adult chose a career in sports reporting with a big focus on tennis. In 2016 Gemma was involved in a car accident and developed dystonia. Her medical team encouraged Gemma to use wheelchair tennis as a rehabilitation tool – until then Gemma had been reluctant to try playing in a chair as she thought she would be too frustrated that moving and hitting didn’t happen in the same way as when she played on her feet.
But the desire to progress her rehabilitation pushed Gemma to put those fears aside and she started playing wheelchair tennis. Gemma soon had to tape her racket to her hand, as flying tennis rackets become a certain danger when Gemma was on court! Gemma soon moved from London, back to her family home in Peterborough and contacted her local Club, the City of Peterborough Tennis Club. They didn’t have any wheelchair players but eagerly welcomed Gemma into their social tennis and cardio sessions. Gemma explains how their friendly and inclusive approach made her feel so welcome and that the Club was a place for her.
Gemma was then at the Lawn Tennis Writers Association lunch where she was speaking with DMTT President Elaine Paige, who asked her if she played wheelchair tennis. Gemma answered yes and that she had just started looking to compete. Elaine encouraged Gemma to apply for funding through the Trust to help her with the extra costs associated with competition. Gemma was very aware of the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust due to all the interviews she had undertaken with professional wheelchair tennis players – many of whom had thanked the Trust for their support early in their careers. So after Elaine’s encouragement, Gemma put in a funding application and was then awarded a grant to help her purchase a new racket, which suits her playing in a chair better than her old racket, to pay for the tape to tape her racket to her hand and to pay for lessons.
Gemma started to compete in regional LTA competitions and in 2019 she finished runner up in the women’s novice division at the National Series Finals! Gemma has loved competing and the social aspect of tournaments. She is so grateful for the funding she received from DMTT which allowed her to progress her tennis and to fit it in around her busy schedule as a journalist. Gemma says that whilst tennis was a great tool for her physical rehabilitation, it has also really helped with her mental health and wellbeing, and encourages more people to try playing. With charities like the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust who can help you get playing through funding, and friendly and inclusive tennis clubs, there is no excuse to not start playing!