Named Tennis Canada’s Most Improved Player last year for rising 33 spots in the rankings throughout the season, Mika Ishikawa has become one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis talents. She is aiming to make the Parapan Am Games roster this summer. Here is what you need to know about Ishikawa:
Birthdate: November 2, 1969
World Ranking (as of June 22, 2015):
WOMEN’S – World No. 80 Singles / World No. 49 Doubles
QUAD – World No. 22 Singles / World No. 30 Doubles
WOMEN’S – World No. 60 Singles (May 20, 2013) / World No. 48 Doubles (June 15, 2015)
QUAD – World No. 18 Singles (February 10, 2014) / World No. 18 Doubles (May 18, 2015)
Ishikawa tried several wheelchair sports at a “Have a Go Day” in British Columbia but found she was most interested in wheelchair tennis. She is now Canada’s highest-ranked quad player at world No. 22, but as the Parapan Am Games will not have a quad category Ishikawa has been playing women’s tournaments in an attempt to qualify for the prestigious event. Her training consists of one month of off-season training each year in Thailand, group lessons while she’s home in Vancouver, and coaching from fellow Parapan Am hopeful and former Paralympian Sarah Hunter. In the past few months, she has reached two semifinals and two quarter-finals.
On when she fell in the love with the sport:
I hadn’t played tennis before my injury but once I got a racquet, I loved it. I tried wheelchair basketball but I couldn’t reach the goal net. I found that it was difficult to play sports in a wheelchair, but wheelchair tennis is an individual sport so I was able to play without experience or a certain level of skill and start at my own pace and level.
On her goals in the sport:
I hope to make the team for the Parapan Am Games. After the Games, I plan on going back to the quad category to keep my ranking and hopefully I can qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
On playing the Parapan Am Games at home:
It would be absolutely a proud moment. I feel happy that I’m Canadian and I play wheelchair tennis. I’ve never represented my country in anything so it will be my biggest achievement and a dream come true.
On her proudest moment in wheelchair tennis:
In September of last year, I beat three higher-ranked players in one tournament to make the final at the PTR Hilton Head Championships in North Carolina.
On what might surprise people about wheelchair tennis:
We can play the same in our wheelchairs as able-bodied players. The first time most people see wheelchair tennis, they ask “When you push your wheelchair, what do you do with your racquet?” Then I say “Grab with your right hand (left hand if you’re a lefty), then push.” They then say that it must be tough. I won’t say it’s not tough but as you get used to it, getting to balls or hitting for placement is more difficult. Pushing a wheelchair while grabbing a racquet is not the toughest task.
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.