Champions retain NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters titles
PUBLISHED: 19:35 04 December 2016
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Gerard, Griffioen and Wagner all win again
Joachim Gerard, Jiske Griffioen and David Wagner all successfully defended their respective titles at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Each faced a formidable opponent, with 25-year-old Belgian Gerard taking on Paralympic champion Gordon Reid of Great Britain, who had also won at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and was set to end the season as the new world number one.
Reid held a 9-8 advantage in previous meetings, but Gerard had won the most recent clash at the British Open in July, before winning bronze at the Paralympics and took the first game on Reid’s serve.
But Reid found his rhythm and went up 2-1 with powerful cross-court forehands and deft sliced back-hand strokes, before Gerard hit back to take the match to 4-3.
Reid broke the Belgian’s serve to level at 4-4, then moved ahead and took the first set 6-4 when the powerful Gerard double-faulted.
The second set saw neither player give an inch, with every point keenly contested as the score levelled at 4-4 after 52 minutes of play.
Both players were breaking serve and Gerard nosed ahead to take the second set to 5-4, before a delightful sliced backhand by Gerard gave him set point.
Reid took the next two points, before Gerard served out to take the set 6-4 and then took a 4-0 lead in the deciding set with his powerful serve.
But Reid fought back to trail 5-4, before Gerard served out to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
He said: “It was not an easy match and I made some mistakes. I told myself to focus on my game and I served well though I was nervous near the end.
“I am very happy how I managed to play. It was not easy but I managed to play my game. To win here – yes, it’s very impressive.”
A disappointed Reid added: “Yesterday I had that nervous energy but today I wasn’t in that mind-set.
“I started well (from a scoreline perspective), but really I wasn’t serving or returning as well as I have in the other matches.
“He started nailing his shots and it was difficult to find my rhythm for the first time this week. I feel frustratedbut Joachim played well. It reminds me that there is still a lot of things I can work on.”
After the excitement of the men’s final, Griffioen and Japan’s Yui Kamiji came on to centre court to do battle and the Dutchwoman came from 3-1 down to snatch the set 6-4.
World number one Griffioen continued to press Kamiji, going 3-1 up in the second set before her rival rallied to level at 4-4.
But Griffioen took the next two games to retain her crown and said: “I’m really happy. It has been a long, tough week. Yui is a tough opponent and we always have close matches.
“I’m really pleased, even if it was a struggle, to have won and retained my title. For me the Masters is kind of like a fifth Slam as you are competing against only the top eight players in the world. Today was another close fight and I’m pleased to end it on a high.”
Kamiji added: “This week I have been very happy with my performance but not today. She (Griffioen) knew where I wanted to hit it and I think I need to change for next year.
“I don’t like being runner-up. This year was not my best performance and I want to learn more.”
That left the quad final and Wagner was seeking his fifth successive title against Israel’s Itay Erenlib, in his first NEC Masters final.
American Wagner carved out a 4-1 lead, before his rival took the next two games, and went on to win the first set 6-4.
Wagner then made his experience tell and raced through the second set to take it 6-1 and clinch his ninth NEC Wheelchair Masters title overall.
He said: “It’s hard to sum up. It has been a long and hard week because the best of the best are here. I pulled on a lot of experience out there.
“I was 4-1 up in the first set but then Itay started returning everything I hit. I got that first set and then I relax a little as you know you are either going to win it or have to go the full distance.
“For me it’s a true honour. I don’t know what it is that means I peak at the end of the season – I just know I love tennis!”
Third-place play-offs also took place, with Sweden’s Stefan Olsson beating Frenchman Stephane Houdet 6-3, 6-1 and Deide de Groot defeating fellow Dutchwoman Marjolein Buis 6-1, 6-1.
In the quad division, Londoner Andy Lapthorne beat Korea’ sKyu-Seung Kim 6-1, 6-2.