Shuker shines at NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters
07:00 02 December 2016
2016 Getty Images
Quartet book semi-final spots on day two
Defending men’s champion Joachim Gerard (Belgium) moved through to the semi-finals on day two of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters at the Olympic Park yesterday.
Yui Kamiji (Japan) also came through in the women’s draw, while in the quad division, eight-time Masters champion David Wagner (USA) and world number four Andy Lapthorne (GB) have booked their places in the latter stages of the tournament.
But the majority of the semi-final places remain in the balance going into the final round-robin matches today (Friday), so for many players the stakes are high when play gets underway at 11am at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.
Jiske Griffioen (Netherlands) took on number three seed Kamiji after both had won their opening matches on day one, with the Japanese player boasting a 2-1 record in head-to-head meetings in 2016.
And it was Kamiji who pressed to take the first set 6-3, with her ‘spinny, slicey serve’ and use of backhand top spin keeping Griffioen in check.
The Japanese went on to take the match 6-3, 6-3 and said: “The first set was difficult and close but I was good. I’m very happy with my performance.”
After showing promise but losing against Kamiji yesterday, GB’s world number eight Lucy Shuker was determined to take points from 2015 Masters finalist and world number six Sabine Ellerbrock (Germany), who had lost yesterday to Griffioen.
Last year at the Masters it was Shuker who had beaten the German in three sets at the round-robin stage, but initially it was the 41 year-old German who took the game to Shuker, winning the first set 6-1.
The tenacious Shuker fought back to take the second set 6-3 and kept her focus as Ellerbrock called for her trainer and held her nerve after losing three match points to take victory, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
A delighted Shuker said: “I was a little up-and-down in the first set and Sabine served well. I managed to turn it around in the second and in the third I just stayed focused and came away with a win.”
Griffioen and Shuker will now meet in a winner-takes-all match to join Kamiji in the latter stages of the competition and Shuker added: “I think it’s about having the confidence against the top girls, ensuring I win when I’ve put myself in a position to do it.”
After seeing their compatriot Griffioen lose, world number two Aniek van Koot and number seven Diede de Groot battled for points following Jordanne Whiley’s (GB) enforced withdrawal due to injury.
Diede, who recently lifted the Bath Indoor title and opened her Masters debut with a win over Marjolie Buis (Netherlands), lost the first set 7-5 and saw van Koot maintain pressure to win the second 6-4.
Van Koot said: “She’s a talented player so you need to stay really sharp. Yes, the (Masters) is really open, everyone is competing well and we all want this title.”
Defending quad champion Wargner, looking to continue his good form in pursuit of a ninth Masters title, tok on Israel’s Itay Erenlib, the world number five, and was pushed hard in the first set, before clinching a 7-5, 6-2 win.
He said: “I’m just happy to get through to the knock-out rounds. Every title is important to me and to have a chance of getting another (Masters title) would mean as much to me as the others.
“I feel healthy and I just want to keep playing the best I can on court.”
British fans had their eyes on world number four Lapthorne, who played Korea’s Kyu-Seung Kim for the first time in his career.
Lapthorne was quick to take the initiative against the world number six and wrapped up the match 6-2, 6-2, but the second seed wasn’t happy with his performance.
He said: “For me, it’s not just about the result. I was frustrated with some of my play out there and maybe put too much pressure on myself. I’ve got the confidence and my goal is to win (the title) but first I’ll focus on the semis.”
World number one Stephane Houdet, 46, faced defending champion Gerard, boastinng a 23-12 advantage in their career head-to-head, but the big serving Belgian had recently beaten the Frenchman in the bronze medal play-off at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
And it was Gerard who took the first set 7-5, before closing out the match by winning the second set 6-2 and he said: “Stephane played well and I had to change my game when I started to make some mistakes. But I’m happy to be in the semi-finals.
“I think Gordon (Reid) is playing well this year and perhaps he’s the other to beat (here at the Masters).”
World number five Nicolas Peifer had lost to fellow Frenchman Houdet on day one and aimed to make amends against 18-year-old Alfie Hewett (GB), who had been overcome by Gerard’s serve in his first match.
But it was world number seven Hewett who took the initiative, taking the first set 6-0 and powering his way through to an emphatic 6-0, 6-3 first win at the Masters.
He said: “To come out and play like that was incredible. I felt more confident and my first serves had a higher percentage. It was just one of those games where everything came together. It was good.”
Sweden’s Stefan Olsson met Maikel Scheffers (Netherlands), after both had lost their first matches, and the Dutchman powered his way to a 6-2, 6-2 win.
That left world number two Reid to face Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez in the last match of the day, with both having 12 wins in their head-to-head.
Paralympic champion Reid had lost to the world number four in the 2016 final at Roland Garros, but the 25-year-old beat the Argentine in the last eight in Rio and was more aggressive in London, winning the first set 6-1.
Reid was 2-0 down in the second set, but rallied to take it 6-2 and said: “I thought I played a good match. I was aggressive, served well and picked my spots. It was some of the best tennis I’ve played.”
Friday sees the final round-robin matches, before Saturday’s semi-final. All the action will start at 11am.