Jayant Mistry first played Paralympic tennis at the Barcelona 1992 Games and retired after the Athens 2004 Games. He won 68 International career titles including the inaugural Wimbledon Doubles Championships and Doubles Masters both in 2005.

Jayant Mistry playing professional wheelchair tennis in the 1990s.

Early life 

Born on the 29th of August 1966 in Leicester, Jayant Mistry was born with spina bifida and at the age of 12 he had his right foot amputated and was fitted with a prosthetic, which was recommended by his doctors because walking with leg braces was twisting both legs.

Always a keen sportsman, Jayant took up a variety of sports including football, cricket, table tennis, and swimming. He started playing wheelchair basketball at about the age of 12 and seven years later, wheelchair tennis, after viewing a demonstration where he thought it would be an enjoyable sport to participate in.  

I played at Victoria Park all summer long, entered a couple of tournaments and the next year was back at Stoke Mandeville. That was the start and I never looked back. 

His parents, however, thought of his sport as a hobby, saying it couldn’t possibly be a career or make him money.

The way I tried to sell it to my parents was to say if you look at people who play cricket – because that was their big sport – why didn’t they become doctors and lawyers themselves?

Life as a Paralympic Athlete 

Initially working at a leisure centre and in sports development at Leicestershire County Council, Jayant says 

When I was playing tennis, even abroad, I was still working full-time, all my holidays were taken up with playing. Then I dropped down to part-time hours, which allowed me more time to train and compete. I finally got Lottery funding in 2000, which allowed me to ditch the job and play full-time.

Jayant represented Great Britain at four consecutive Paralympic Games from Barcelona 1992 to Athens 2004. Having aimed to compete in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, after several injuries in 2007, Jayant recognised:

I couldn’t compete with the top players in the world. I think I could have got to Beijing, but just to go there, just to get another track suit, just wasn’t good enough for me, if I’m not there to actually win it, that was a thing for me


Jayant recalls:

Going to Stoke Mandeville

I attended the Junior Games at Stoke Mandeville where I saw other kids with disabilities, from different age groups and abilities, and it’s there that I saw wheelchair basketball, which I took up and enjoyed playing.

His first Paralympics

When I first remember Barcelona, playing on the clay courts out there, my first Paralympic games, that was just amazing, to see the crowds to see the people, to see everybody coming together, to be involved in the Paralympics movement, and I think every Games there has been a step forward, in terms of the level of participants, in terms of the crowds, in terms of the overall exposure, I think each Games have moved forward.

Winning Wimbledon in 2005

Winning Wimbledon in 2005, it was with Michael Jeremiasz, my doubles partner, a great friend of mine. To be able to share it with him was quite special as well. It was the first time that they had an event at Wimbledon for wheelchair tennis, so you know, to actually win the event, your name will always be at the top of the list so... and then also it was such an emotional rollercoaster of a match as well. We had to qualify to get in in the first place, I think we were seeded two at the event, the semi-final wasn’t a great match but the final itself kind of went up and down, we were ahead in every single set, but then they kept coming back, then we were ahead and then in the final set itself - it was two hours and 20 minutes long, but then there was a tiebreaker – that’s never happened at Wimbledon before, because the final set of a tennis match at Wimbledon is always a long set, but that was a first to have a tiebreaker. And again we went ahead in the tie break, they came back, and then they went ahead and they actually had a couple of championship points; so at 6 -4 they had 2 championship points. The first one I think David hit it long, the second one I remember I came in for a volley, hit a backhand overhead smash and hit the net corner and it just went over, so we were that close to actually losing it; changed round and we won the match 8:6 in the tiebreaker, in the final set. And after we won them the match point, I threw my racket in the air, gave Michael a great big hug, tried to pull him out of his chair, but he’s heavier than me, so I actually ended up coming out of my chair. And then that was it, that was just emotional, the biggest high I have ever had. And then we went to the champions’ ball and everything else, I shan’t talk about what happened at the end of the day, it was just a complete mess, there was a blur, but the highlight of my career, for sure.

Asked if he missed playing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Jayant replied: 

Yeah, Gordon Reid who went on to win the gold medal in Rio in 2016 said to me, he wished we’d played doubles in London. We would have medalled. I’d retired in 2007, had an operation on my elbow in 2009 and was then offered the job to run it in 2011, so it wasn’t just the right time for me. Gordon and I would’ve had a good chance because the guys that won the gold, the Swedes, I’d never lost to them!

Retirement as a Paralympic Athlete

After retirement in 2007, Jayant worked in sport development for the Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, going on to take the role of wheelchair tennis manager for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He also went to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as a wheelchair tennis coach. 

After the London 2012 Games Jayant worked part time as East Midlands Inclusive Sports Development Officer for the English Federation of Disability Sports and took on voluntary roles including, managing, coaching and playing for Leicester Cobras wheelchair basketball club which he was influential in founding in 1992; helping the development officer for karate organise the European Karate Championships; and as a player ambassador for the International Tennis Federation's Silver Fund developing a sustainable wheelchair tennis programme in India.

Jayant is currently the Impact and Learning Adviser for Activity Alliance.

Achievements and awards 

Paralympic Games

Jayant participated in four Paralympic Games, his first being in Barcelona in 1992, and then Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000, and then Athens in 2004.  

Other sporting events 

During his professional sporting career, Jayant won 68 international titles, 48 in doubles and 20 in singles, including a doubles grand slam title at the Wheelchair Classic 8s at the Australian Open in 2002 with Robin Ammerlaan.

In addition to his Paralympic victories, Jayant was also the first British player to win the wheelchair men’s doubles titles at the 2005 Wimbledon Championships alongside Michaël Jeremiasz, the first British man to win a men’s title at the Wimbledon Championships since Fred Perry in 1936. 

Other awards and recognition

2005 saw Jayant win Disabled Sportsman of the Year at the BBC East Midlands Sports Awards and Disabled Player of the Year at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) awards.

Jayant was awarded Honorary Doctor of the University (Hon DUniv) by Loughborough University in 2007, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to wheelchair tennis, Paralympic sport and as an inspiration to the local Loughborough community. Read the full oration here.

An interview with Jayant Mistry

Interviewer Klara Janicki, February 2013

What brought you to sport, Jayant?

Well for me sport has been a big part of my life ever since I was at school. I enjoyed it; I went to what they call a special school, so all the people that I was with were all disabled children anyway. As I was growing up, I played football, cricket, table tennis, swimming, lots and lots of other sports. I loved it, because it meant that you mixed in with everybody else. We then went to Stoke Mandeville as a team. We were one of the junior teams down there, and from there it really grew to a kind of competition. As I got older I then started to play wheelchair basketball, and then after playing wheelchair basketball I then saw a demonstration of wheelchair tennis. And then I thought well, this would be a fantastic sport to play in the summertime. So in the wintertime I played basketball and in the summertime I played tennis, and as the sport grew bigger, I then started playing wheelchair tennis all year round, and had a fantastic career after that.  

Did you face any difficulties with the sport? You mentioned you played for only 7 years professionally.

So when I first started playing it wasn’t easy, but then I was very lucky, because of the job I was doing, I was working full time, but it was flexible, so I used to do shifts, I used to do 7.00 till 3.00 or 2.00 till 10.00, and that enabled me to then train in the time when I wasn’t actually working. Plus the sport of wheelchair tennis is actually very integrated, so I didn’t necessarily have to have a tennis coach with me, I could go out and play with friends and family. So I could spend ten-fifteen hours on a tennis court, just playing tennis with able-bodied friends of mine, so that made it cheaper for me and I didn’t have to go to a tennis club, I could go just play on a public courts. So from my house here in Leicester I used to push up to the local park, Victoria Park up in Leicester,  and to go to play with a friend of mine;  we would just spend the whole afternoon just playing tennis. So for me, it was a kind of like – if you want to play the top end now, there is a lot of investment that you have to do to get the right equipment, the right coaches and turn up at the right tournaments, but in order to actually play the game on a basic level you don’t need to have everything else in place - you need a racket, you need a chair, you need a court.

How did it happen that you decided to do tennis professionally?

Within tennis I just kind of took it up, because when I was actually growing up the sport was quite young and there were only probably 10-12 tournaments a year and then as I got better the sport got bigger, so the two things kind of went hand in hand. In the old days when I was actually first starting playing there, you only ever played in one wheelchair. So to then go from that, to when in early 90s people started having two wheelchairs and then started having more camber on the chair, and then having a wheel on the back…I feel very fortunate in that that I was kind of part of the evolution of the sport as well, I got dragged up as the sport got bigger and bigger, and now as you see it on the Wheelchair Tennis Tour or Paralympics or any Grand Slam event, the sport now is a lot different to how it was when I got involved. 

And I am not sure  people even then knew how big the sport was gonna be, even in the old days there wasn’t anything like prize money - which we kind of take for granted nowadays - so you were doing it for the love of the sport because you wanted to actually be the best that you could be. You know, where it has got to now, is a massive sport, there is 140 tournaments, it is integrated into all four of the Grand Slam events, and it’s one of the biggest sports of the Paralympics. So to actually see where it was then -  a small group of people who were doing it because they loved it - to a professional tour that people are doing because they are actually making a living out of it - it has really been a big transformation.

What about the connection between sport and your disability? You haven’t mentioned that part...

I don’t even think about it. For me it is just part of who I am. For me having a tennis wheelchair is like a cyclist having a cycle, it is just a piece of equipment that you use. And once you are actually in the chair, you’ve got the right setting and your right strapping and everything else that just becomes a natural part of it. So when you are teaching people, whether it’s in basketball, tennis or anything else, you have to be able to learn to control the chair and things like that. I don’t see a disability, but that’s mainly because I was born disabled, so it has always been a part of me. And all you do is you adapt the world to you. Yes there is always gonna be challenges around that and peoples’ attitude and perceptions and everything else, but that is something that you can´t control anyway. All you can control is the way you look at life and the way that you approach life. I think it is up to people themselves to go out and to achieve what they want to do.   There’s always gonna be barriers in the way, but how do you actually get around it, it’s a personal journey. For me I was born this way, so this is the way the world is, I can’t change everything else around it but what I can change is my attitude towards what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, you know, you are not always going to achieve what you want to, but it’s about the journey that you are taking rather than the actual end goal sometimes. 

Download a pdf of Jayant's full interview here