Have you ever wondered who fixes the wheelchairs in wheelchair tennis? Meet James Ascroft.
Whether it’s a loose lug nut, a seat that needs adjusting, or even something as extreme as a chair split in half, Ascroft is the man often present as individual wheelchair tennis repair shop.
While this isn’t Ascroft’s day job, he can regularly be found in court dealing with all sorts of issues.
“I’m the lead violinist in a wheelchair,” joked Ascroft. “Or whatever they call me, that’s my official title!”
“I’m just a small job, it’s not official. It’s good that quite often we take a situation that wasn’t going the right way and turn it around the right way.
“I’ve done that at quite a few competitions now, and it’s pretty good when I can do it.”
Ascroft recently went above and beyond for South African player Donald Ramphadi, who found his wheelchair in two pieces after a match at the LTA UK Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Nottingham.
This was no obstacle for Ascroft, however, who managed to find a solution and get the 29-year-old back on the pitch.
“I get a call that this boy’s chair is broken,” Ascroft said.
“I didn’t know any more than that. Very often it is when they have gone through the airlines that they have broken down.
“The chair turned into two pieces – it’s never good when you have a wheelchair in both parts of your hands. Good for packing, not great for playing with!
“After many phone calls we found this motorcycle engineering company. They were more likely to say no than yes, but I bribed them with bacon butts and we went there early the next day. morning.
“They were absolutely fantastic, they couldn’t have done enough. I was like a kid in a candy store – I’m a biker myself. It was welding heaven.
“We managed to stick it, but we still didn’t know if it would actually work.
“We come back here with our shiny new toy and glued all the rest of the pieces on it, and Donald got in there, it was a boost.”
Ramphadi returned to the court thanks to the work of Nottingham-based Spondongia GIA Engineering to take on Britain’s Andy Lapthorne, a clash which ended in defeat for the South African star.
And it was a sweet reward for Ascroft, who himself lost a leg in a motorbike accident 15 years ago but admits he’s not as good on the pitch as the players he looks after. .
“I’ve been on the court once or twice. I have to be really, really good to play as badly as I do,” he added. “I’ve been on the court once or twice.
“That probably helps a bit [that he is also disabled.] I’m just missing half a toenail as many of them remind me!
“I sometimes have an affinity and a bit of empathy with what they have to deal with.”
Ascroft offers a vital, and often less recognized service that keeps many players running, but admits it is wary of making too many adjustments despite some players’ requests.
“It’s a pretty integral part of a wheelchair tennis match,” Ascroft said. “It is enormous.
“I don’t try to change too many settings. You don’t want to tell someone to do this, do this before a game because it could be a game changer. We fight and prepare things.
“We’re not going to start welding a chair in the middle of a game, but if it’s a nut and bolt on it, we can make it work again.”
For more information on the LTA UK Wheelchair Tennis Championships click here