Ranked No. 3 in the country in men’s wheelchair tennis, Eric Gilbert is a longtime member of Canada’s national team. He is currently working hard to try and earn a spot in this year’s Parapan Am Games in Toronto. Here is what you need to know about Gilbert:
Birthdate: May 5, 1972
Residence: St. Raymond, Quebec
World Ranking (as of May 25, 2015): World No. 81 Singles / World No. 93 Doubles
Career-High Rankings: World No. 54 Singles (July 19, 2010) / World No. 58 Doubles (November 23, 2009)
Ranked behind Canada’s No. 1 and No. 2 players Joel Dembe and Philippe Bedard, Gilbert is hoping to earn one of eight wild cards to be awarded for the men’s draw at the Parapan Am Games and is working to improve his ranking to better his chances. Training about five days a week – including on-court and off-court – wheelchair tennis keeps him busy. And thanks to his Texas Open runner-up finish last week, he has already moved up 11 spots to world No. 81.
On his start in wheelchair tennis:
My first time was in Quebec City. I was 33 years old; that was 10 years ago. It was a demonstration activity, so I tried it and right away I fell in love with tennis. It’s an individual sport, and it fits really well with my personality. It’s a long process, it is non-stop improvement, you cannot be perfect – that’s another aspect that fits really well with me.
On his goals for this year:
This year it would be great to finish in the Top 50 for my ranking. It has also been four or five years of me always finishing third at the Canadian national championships so I want to improve that as well this year, and finish second or win.
On his biggest moments in wheelchair tennis:
Definitely the World Team Cup events. One of the best was Turkey two years ago because of the experience and I played in matches there too. I was really well prepared to be there, I hit my peak and played my best there. The venue was one of the greatest I’ve seen too.
On representing Canada at World Team Cup:
When I’m asked to go to the World Team Cup events, to represent my country, I’m always there. I’ve always been the back-up, and for me, it’s really important to be ready to play, even when I’m not scheduled. They may ask me to play if the first or second player is injured or something comes up. It’s a great challenge too, because you have to be ready to play, and you have to be there to support the team in their matches. It’s a very good experience.
On playing the Parapan Am Games at home:
It would represent to me something more than the World Team Cup events. It would be a step higher for my tennis game and career and something bigger for my tennis life.
On what might surprise people about wheelchair tennis:
At the first glance, it looks different because we use a wheelchair. But in reality, it’s the same as able-bodied tennis. It’s the same strategy, the same tactics, the technique is really close, and mobility is as important as in able-bodied. It’s all about having a really good position to hit the ball. So it’s the same and it can be played with everybody. I can play with my girlfriend, with my father, I can play with everybody. The only rule that is different is there are two bounces allowed.
The 2015 Toronto Parapan Am Games take place August 7-15, with the wheelchair tennis event located at the University of Toronto Scarborough Tennis Centre. Canada will be sending two men and two women to the tournament, with the team set to be announced by early July.