Jordanne Whiley

Birmingham’s world-beating young tennis star on how she overcame a crippling condition to win five Grand Slams in a row

It’s a big month for British tennis. Here in Birmingham we welcome some of the world’s best women’s players at the Aegon Classic tournament in Edgbaston, while at the end of June it’s Wimbledon where fans will be cheering on homegrown heroes such as Andy Murray and Jordanne Whiley. Everyone knows Andy of course but Jordanne probably isn’t such a familiar name, yet she has won more Grand Slams and is the defending Wimbledon champion. In fact Jordanne is so dominant that you could describe her as the Serena Williams of women’s wheelchair tennis.


The 22-year-old from Halesowen, who is 23 this month, is coming off a season which saw her become the first-ever British athlete, including the able-bodied, to win all four doubles Slams – the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Opens – in one year. Partnered by Yui Kamiji from Japan, she’s already successfully defended her title down under in 2015. There’s every reason to expect that she will take consecutive championships in SW19 too. Jordanne’s story is much like any of the able-bodied stars of the sport. It’s one of supreme talent allied to huge amounts of endeavor, effort and commitment. The big difference is the courage that Jordanne has had to show to overcome the Brittle Bone Disease which led to her breaking her legs 26 times up to the age of 12. At that stage most kids would have given up on competing in any sport, let alone becoming a champion, but Jordanne had been playing wheelchair tennis from the age of three. She was also able to draw on the inspiration of her Paralympian father – also afflicted with Brittle Bone Disease – who won a 100 metres bronze medal back in the 80s. “When he retired from the sport he took up tennis and took me to watch him play in a tournament in Israel. I was just three and started copying his swings. As soon as we got home dad took me to Billesley tennis centre in Birmingham and signed me up. “Seeing what he achieved and growing up in a sporting family meant it was quite easy really. Breaking my legs was something I just got used to, and gradually as I grew older it just got better. I worked in an environment and with coaches who helped me and I haven’t broken a bone again since. I’m lucky in that it is only in my legs which are affected and not my upper body. So I can strike a ball and it doesn’t affect my power at all.”


Jordanne is part of the Tennis Foundation’s wheelchair tennis performance programme supported by UK Sport and the National Lottery. She trains with her coach at the High Performance Centre in Marlow and lives with her boyfriend in London. But much of the year is spent away from the UK competing in tournaments around the world. “Our circuit follows that of stars such as the Williams sisters,” explained Jordanne. “Our tournaments follow on from theirs, so we are in places like Australia, the States, France and of course Wimbledon playing our Grand Slams at the same time. “I have my own team around me, supporting and looking after me, getting me ready for events. My dad retired last year and now travels with me to some tournaments too.” It all sounds a very similar and hectic life to that experienced by the top tennis stars. There is one big difference though – the money. While Wimbledon champions Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic each received more than £1.5million in prize money for winning their titles, Jordanne picked up a mere £6,000. “It’s a very small figure when you bear in mind we have the same costs and expenses, but someone like me doesn’t even have individual sponsors for support. We are hopeful that all the publicity generated in raising the profile of Paralympic sports will eventually help to improve the prize money a little.”


  • Australian Open champion 2014, 2015
  • Wimbledon champion 2014
  • French Open champion 2014
  • US Open champion 2014
  • Aegon Player of the Year 2014
  • Shortlisted, Sky Sports Woman of the Year 2014
  • Bronze medal, London 2012 Paralympics