April 24, 2020
Lucy Shuker won’t let the coronavirus pandemic dent her dream of participating in another Paralympics.
In fact she says she feels a bit like Benjamin Button as she approaches her 40th birthday at the end of May.
Remember the Brad Pitt movie character who aged in reverse and got younger as time went on?
Shuker may not be getting younger. But she is certainly not feeling her age either.
In fact she continues to break personal bests in fitness tests.
Lucy explained: ‘I’m very lucky that I can continue to train through this crisis. And I still follow all the government rules on social distancing.
‘I’m getting stronger and quicker on court. And I’m feeling in better shape than I have ever been.’
She credits part of the increased speed to her new RGK wheelchair design. A lighter frame for the chair itself. Lighter push-rims on the wheels. Higher-pressure tyres. All these improvements have contributed to better all-round chair performance.
But it’s also down to hard work. And she welcomes the opportunity to have a good strength-and-fitness training block. She can use equipment at home during this challenging time.
Lucy added: ‘The LTA have been really supportive. They have helped us to get set up to train at home and make the most of this time.
‘I’m also incredibly lucky that my old school, St Nicholas School in Fleet, have recently allowed me to use their courts to practise too.
‘It’s just a short drive from my home and I don’t access any of the buildings or come into contact with anyone at the school. So it is all in line with government restrictions.
‘But it gives me the opportunity to play tennis and hit some balls. And it’s nice to be able to get outside in this lovely weather.
‘It makes me feel happy.’
There is also time for analysis of performances over the past twelve months. Time to analyse opponents and just time to reset mentally.
‘The tennis tour is very busy and you’re constantly on the go. So it’s really nice to stop and have some down-time to reconnect with friends – even if it’s over FaceTime and Zoom. It’s just good to have that time not to think about tennis or travel. To enjoy home.’
Of course Shuker wants to be as prepared as possible when there is an opportunity to get back playing again – even if that isn’t until next year.
And she emphasised: ‘I still feel time is on my side. And my body is giving me the same message through those encouraging personal bests.
‘I’m ranked 12th in the world for singles but the rankings are so close that one good result could put me back up to eighth when the opportunity comes.
‘I’ve been up as high as fourth in the doubles rankings recently. I feel I have plenty more to give when the build-up to the Paralympics starts in earnest.
‘Why shouldn’t I? Look at Venus Williams and Roger Federer. Venus is about my age and still playing.
‘So I’m genuinely feeling good about the tennis challenges that lie ahead.’
The tennis world came to a very quick standstill after Indian Wells became the first major tournament to be cancelled in March.
The wheelchair tennis tour quickly followed suit with the suspension of all events until July 13. That will of course be reviewed and very possibly extended in due course.
Lucy reflected: ‘I remember when coronavirus first became an issue beyond China because I was in that part of the world. I was coming back from Australia and stopped off to see by brother in Hong Kong.
‘We saw everyone starting to wear masks. My nephews’ schools were closed. Hong Kong was unusually quiet.
‘A few weeks later I went off to play three tournaments in America with the intention of playing three more in South Korea and Japan after that.
‘As it turned out I didn’t even have the chance to play in the second tournament in the USA.
‘On the day of my first match I received an email to say that the following week’s tournament was cancelled.
‘Then within an hour another email came through to say that the current tournament had been cancelled too.
‘They told us they would be holding emergency meetings at the hotel later that day to help support us with rearranging flights in order to get home.
‘It was incredibly stressful to begin with. I also had my coach with me and I couldn’t get through to British Airways at all.
‘Fortunately I have a friend who works in ticketing who was absolutely incredible and re-routed both our tickets home the following day.
‘Of course there are some frustrations with the current pandemic. But the most important thing is that the right decisions have been made to keep the tennis community safe.
‘Although I miss seeing my family and friends, and most of all my mum’s cooking, I feel relatively fortunate.
‘I’m supported by UK Sport. And sponsors such as Wimbledon Debenture Holders, Parkside Suite Frimley and Path To Success are sticking by me.
‘Whether we play again towards the end of 2020 or not until Australia and the start of 2021, I will be ready.
‘My fortieth birthday won’t be marked by a party with friends as I’d originally planned. But I’ll still have a good day!
‘We all have to make the best of these strange times and be grateful for everything that we do have.
Stay safe and lots of love,
Lucy x ‘