WHEELCHAIR tennis star Lucy Shuker admits it is “really strange” to have a summer without Wimbledon.

The Championships - a staple of the British summer - were scheduled to start this coming Monday (June 29), but organisers took the decision to cancel the event in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Event cancellations, and the wider lockdown, have presented a massive challenge for Shuker and her fellow tennis players, but the 40-year-old maintains a sense of perspective.

“I think it is really strange, for a tournament to be cancelled and not just postponed,” she told the County Gazette.

“For me Wimbledon is where the history of tennis started, so for that not to be happening is pretty big, and in years to come when people look back and talk about this time, it will be remembered.

“But there’s a bigger picture, and I look at people who have unfortunately lost loved ones [to coronavirus].

“So for sports to be postponed, that’s a small thing compared to that bigger picture.”

Shuker has previous experience of coping with adversity, having been in a motorbike accident which left her paralysed from the chest down.

She started playing wheelchair tennis in 2002, training at Taunton Tennis Centre when she lived in Somerset, and has gone on to play in four Wimbledon doubles finals, as well as winning Paralympic bronze in 2012 and 2016.

Her approach to lockdown has been to turn it into a positive, and to think outside of the box in her training.

She said: “These are unprecedented times, but I’ve made my own experience into a positive, by grabbing the extra time that I don’t usually have.

“I’ve had good chats with my team, broken down my game and identified areas that I could look to improve.

“We’ve also discussed the data analysis and video analysis - things that I didn’t have time to do in the past, but now I’ve had an abundance of time.

“So I’ve made it a positive - catching up with friends through video calls, setting family challenges.

“There’s been a realisation that, when I had my accident in 2001, I spent 10 months in hospital and the first seven weeks of that I was confined to bed rest and wasn’t allowed to move, so perhaps that time has given me that experience.

“I feel really grateful that myself, my family and friends are all healthy, and that’s something people can take for granted.”

Some of her training has taken place at home, and more recently she has been able to return to the tennis court.

“I’m fortunate to have an arm crank, allowing me to do strength and conditioning work, and interval sessions,” she said.

“I’ve also done some fitness work out in the car park where I live - medicine ball workouts, movement drills, testing my reactions, hill sprints - and all of that has been confined to where I live.

“It’s just been about thinking outside of the box and trying things that I haven’t done before.

“After a few weeks, I was able to get access to a private school’s tennis court, as the school was shut to children apart from those of key workers.

“It was a safe environment because the children weren’t using it and I was just going with the person that I live with, so I could do specific movement and fitness drills, and work on specific areas of my game.

“That helped maintain my tennis-specific fitness, working on my wrist, forearm, shoulder, and it was a good place to be away from members of the public, because if I go pushing down roads or pavements, I’m a lot closer to other people as I can’t just step out of the way.

“So I was able to work on certain things which we had identified, serving and just thinking outside of the box.

“It was great fun, and I think combined with the good weather, it’s put me in a good place mentally.”

British tennis’ governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) helped to fund some extra equipment for Shuker’s strength-based work, and has also provided support when it comes to the mental aspect of the game.

“The LTA have done weekly Zoom calls to keep in touch with the players, keeping us up to date with the current situation,” Shuker explained.

“I also have my own personal sports psychologist, Dr Emma Kavanagh, who is part of my team, and she works with the LTA’s sports psychologists to keep in touch.

“We’ve managed to create a routine and some structure, which I think has really benefited us this whole time.”

See next week’s County Gazette for part two of our interview with Lucy Shuker, looking ahead to next year’s rescheduled Paralympic Games in Tokyo