Rob Shaw looks on during a match at the Parapan Am Games.

Photo : Canadian Paralympic Committee

German born Kai Schrameyer has observed the development and progress of wheelchair tennis in Canada firsthand over the years.

Schrameyer, a former world no. 1 and three-time Paralympic medallist, reached the pinnacle of the sport in the 1990s. Although he stepped away in the early 2000s to pursue a sports marketing career, a passion for wheelchair tennis led him back to the coaching sphere where he now leads Tennis Canada’s national program.

“It’s mind-boggling to see how the sport’s developed since the humble beginning in the ‘70s, to when I got involved in the ‘80s,” said Schrameyer on a feature interview with Match Point Canada.

Schrameyer is a former world no. 1 in wheelchair tennis and three-time Paralympic medallist

“Everything is more professional, starting from the athletes and their preparation to the physical aspect, the quality of the tournaments… the prize money has grown exponentially.”

With Schrameyer carrying over his expertise from playing the sport into coaching, he is pushing Canadians towards more success.

“You have to have a certain humility – just because you were a great athlete or wheelchair tennis player, it does not automatically you’re a good coach. It’s quite tricky to convey the knowledge you may have.”

The former wheelchair champion has done his best work with Canada’s top athlete on the wheelchair tennis circuit, Rob Shaw.

Read more: Monday Digest – Shaw scores big in Japan

The 34-year-old continued his consistency on court this past week, winning the Japan Open in doubles with partner Heath Davidson. It’s the second title for the team this season, a 25th career victory for Shaw, and a first ever ITF Super Series win.

The British Columbia native has looked sharp and dialled in with his tennis for much of the season. Earlier in Australia, he reached the quarter-finals of the quad singles and just last Fall won silver at the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Shaw has already qualified for the Paralympics this summer in Paris, while other athletes are making their spring push in events to try and earn a spot at the prestigious event.

“It is the pinnacle of our sport,” says Schrameyer. “Currently all of our athletes are in a mad dash to try and qualify.”

Around the Circuit

Shaw was not the only British Columbian in competition this past week, as 24-year-old Thomas Venos of New Westminster also took the court in singles.

Venos suffered a tight 6-0, 7-6(6) loss to eventual finalist Roland Nemeth of Hungary at the Split Open in Croatia. Venos will look for a bounce back performance this weekend at the Credit Mutuel Open in France.

38-year-old veteran Mitch McIntyre, who ranks 30th in the world in the Quad division, will be the top seed at the Biel-Bienne Indoors in Switzerland.

Check out: Canadians in Action at Home

Elsewhere, Markham, Ontario’s Premier Racquet Club is hosting its Wheelchair Classic this weekend, featuring a men’s, women’s and Quad division. A long list of Canadians are set to compete:

· Natalie Lanucha

· Anne-Marie Dolinar

· Barry Henderson

· Shawn Courchesne

· John Chen

· Frederique Berube Peron

· Hisham Mohammad

· Lachlan Sandford

Path to the Paralympics

Shaw has officially qualified for the Paralympic Games in Paris and currently sits ninth overall in the Quad rankings. Meanwhile, Mitch McIntyre is ranked 30th overall, and 18 places back of qualification.

Natalia Lanucha continues her chase for a spot in Paris and is ranked 43rd overall in the women’s singles category (the top 20 earn a place).