Britain’s Dahnon Ward has been named as the inaugural winner of the International Tennis Federation’s Junior Wheelchair Tennis Player of the Year Award.
Launched in January this year, the award recognises young wheelchair tennis players who both impress with their results on court and embody the principles of leadership and sportsmanship off it. The ITF Wheelchair Committee selected the winners from a shortlist of nominees.
Fifteen-year-old Ward, from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, is part of the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme.
“I’m very proud to receive this,” said Ward after learning of his Junior of the Year Award. “I am determined to keep working hard to continue to improve and progress. Massive thanks to all those who have supported me on my journey so far.”
Ward has amassed some impressive results on both the junior and senior international circuits over the past two seasons, winning the junior singles at the ITF 1 Open d’Amiens in France last year before ending 2019 by winning the junior singles at the LTA’s Abingdon Futures tournament.
Currently at a career-best No.3 in the ITF’s Junior Wheelchair Tennis world rankings, Ward’s stand-out 2019 also saw him win a silver medal for Great Britain at the 2019 Junior World Team Cup in Israel.
He started 2020 by making his debut at the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters in Tarbes, France and went on to reach the men’s singles semi-finals at the LTA’s Wrexham Indoor ITF 3 before winning the junior singles and doubles titles at the Bolton Indoor, where he was also a finalist in the men’s second draw doubles.
Ward was born with a rare condition called Category D proximal femoral focal deficiency, meaning he has a very short bone between his hip and knee, and no knee-cap.
“Tennis has actually changed the way I see my disability,” he said.
Earlier this year he was selected to the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme, which is designed to educate and develop players as they transition through the LTA’s World Class Wheelchair Tennis Performance Pathway, allowing them to be best prepared to become elite international athletes.
As part of the NAGP, Ward has access to training and tournament guidance from LTA coaches, training camps, home training visits from LTA coaches and support to maintain a sport/life balance. He has also been able to benefit from webinars organised by the LTA during lockdown.
“Being selected for the NAGP is an opportunity to learn more and to access the support of coaches and other sports professionals both on court and off court,” he said. “This should enable me to improve all aspects of my game.”