FIVE former champions in a star-studded field are descending on Bolton for the LTA’s 2019 Indoor Wheelchair Tennis Tournament, which starts today at USN Bolton Arena.

Among them are leading Brit Jordanne Whiley and the world number three, Aniek van Koot of the Netherlands, with more than 80 players from 22 countries competing.

Ten-time Grand Slam champion Whiley, the winner of the women’s singles in Bolton in 2015 and 2016, is attempting to make it back-to-back titles on home soil this week after being victorious at the ITF 3 Series Wrexham Indoor.

The Wrexham event was Whiley’s first international tournament since winning a fourth Wimbledon doubles title in July 2017 and subsequently becoming a mum for the first time the following January.

Whiley said: “For my first international tournament since 2017 I certainly exceeded my expectations last week.

“Now I’m really excited for Bolton as there are more top-10 players than last week and it’s a whole new challenge.

“Compared to training I made some big improvements in certain aspects of my game last week, but I’ve also played better in training than some of the tennis I played in Wrexham and there’s still plenty to work on so it’s going to be an interesting week.”

With Whiley set to regain a place on the International Tennis Federation’s world rankings next week, since she needs to have earned ranking points from a minimum of two tournaments, the former world number three will meet current world number three, the 2014 and 2018 Bolton Indoor champion van Koot tomorrow in the women’s singles second round.

Whiley beat Germany’s world number nine Katharina Kruger in Wrexham earlier this month.

Kruger and van Koot are just two of four Top 10 players among the women’s singles entry in Bolton, which also includes current world number eight Marjolein Buis, the 2017 Bolton Indoor champion and runner-up in last year’s all-Dutch final.

European players fill the bulk of the eight seeded positions for the men’s singles, which features seven of the world’s top 20 and another strong Dutch entry headed by world number 10 Maikel Scheffers and 11 Tom Egberink.

Domestic interest in the men’s singles is led by British number three, Dermot Bailey, a semi-finalist in the singles and finalist in the doubles in Wrexham last week.

Bailey plays second seed Egberink for a place in the men’s quarter-finals at stake.

Two former champions are among the entries for the quad singles, including another world number 10, the Netherlands’ Sam Schroder.

Schroder won the Bolton Indoor title in 2017 and lines up alongside Sweden’s 2015 champion Anders Hard and leading Brits James Shaw, Antony Cotterill and Richard Green.

In addition to the world-class play, this year’s event sees the return of Bolton’s Junior Wheelchair Tournament.

That competition is scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday, with entries including six members of the Great Britain Wheelchair Junior Futures Potential Programme.

Tournament director Claire McCulloch said: “This is the start of a vitally-important season for international wheelchair tennis as players begin to think about qualification for the Tokyo Paralympics and that is reflected in the world-class entry we have in Bolton.

“We are very excited to build on the success of last year’s inaugural Bolton Junior Wheelchair Tennis Tournament with many of the country’s top younger players joining us at the weekend.

“To have our world-class athletes play alongside stars of the future really helps to inspire upcoming talent and we would encourage all members of the public to come down to the arena and watch some world-class sport for free this week.”

The Bolton Indoor ITF 2 forms part of the International Tennis Federation’s UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour and is the second of seven world ranking wheelchair tennis tournaments to be held in Great Britain this year.

Entry for spectators is free throughout the duration of the tournament.