Modest Gemma’s joy at reaching a semi-final at her first attempt as City of Peterborough club make plans to expand their wheelchair tennis programme
A traumatic brain injury hasn’t stopped City of Peterborough Tennis club member Gemma Stevenson having a smashing time on the tennis court.
Five years after a car accident left Gemma with little hand and arm function on the right side of her body, the 35 year-old competed in her first womens wheelchair tournament in Loughborough last weekend.
And she surpassed her own expectations by reaching the semi-finals where she lost to outstanding GB junior Ruby Bishop.
Gemma said: “For my first tournament back after everything shut down because of coronavirus I am over the moon with my results at a National Series event, especially as this was my first time in a women’s draw, having previously only competed in novice events.
“I know I go into a lot of tournaments as the underdog, and if I’m honest, I’m my own worst critic. A lot of the time I don’t believe I have any hope win a match anyway so to make it to the singles semi-finals came as much of a shock to me as it probably did to everyone else!
“My quarter-final was a tough match against a player who I had never even got a set off before, let alone a match.
“But somehow on Saturday at a set and 3-1 down I regrouped and dug deep into reserves I never knew I had and took the match 4-6, 6-4 (10-2), booking my spot in that semi-final, which I lost 6-0 6-0 to Ruby Bishop, who should be on everyone’s radar as a potential Grand Slam Champion of the future because she is a phenomenal tennis talent.
“Most importantly though the standard of tennis I played this weekend was a huge improvement on where I was pre-pandemic and that’s all thanks to the work and time that my coach Max Lambert at the City of Peterborough club has put in over lockdown to help me build my confidence and be the best player I can be.
“Max, (chairman) Bill Skead and the whole club team have a real passion for getting more disabled people playing tennis, whether they want to play for fun or compete like I do.
“I know plans are afoot to offer more opportunities in the coming months for others of all ages to come and play wheelchair tennis at the club, which is very exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens with that.”
When Gemma plays tennis she has adapted ‘push rims’ on her sports chair that help her push with enough force and she also tapes the racket to her hand to be able to play.
Gemma has remained multi-talented and competitive since her accident.
She helped the English Paracheer team retain their world (cheerleading) title in Florida in 2019.
Gemma was a student at the Peterborough High School (now the Peterborough School). Gemma won the Jonnie Peacock Award at the 2020 Living Sport Awards for her involvement in wheelchair tennis.
Gemma also works as a freelance sports reporter and broadcaster, and is known as a specialist on the professional wheelchair tennis tour.
She is also regular contributor to Sky Sports.