Tennis: Joachim Gerard confident of defending NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title
PUBLISHED: 14:30 23 November 2016
Belgian cannot wait to start defence at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park next week
Defending NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters men’s singles champion Joachim Gerard believes he has the game to successfully defend his coveted title.
Gerard signalled his intent by lifting the men’s singles crown at the ITF Bath Indoor Wheelchair Tennis Tournament at the weekend, using that event as perfect preparation for the Masters.
“It’s important to feel fully prepared and ready for your first match (at the Masters) because you know you will be competing against the top eight ranked singles players in the world,” said Gerard, currently ranked third in the world.
“My serve is still my best weapon, but I feel I’ve got a very good overall game.
The 28 year-old Belgian right-hander has had mixed fortunes over the season and since defeating Shingo Kunieda (Japan) 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in last year’s Masters final.
He reached the Australian Open final and Wimbledon singles semi-final, on both occasions losing to current world number two and reigning Paralympic singles champion Gordon Reid (GB).
However, over the summer Gerard bounced back, defeating current world number one Stephane Houdet (France) in the final of both the BNP Paribas Open and the Swiss Open.
Looking ahead to the Masters at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, the Belgian commented: “I think my level of play at the moment is good enough to defend my title.
“Of course, you’ve got to go out there and win every match and though it won’t be easy, I’m sure I can do it.”
Gerard is aware that this year’s event will see five British players in action and hopes their presence will ensure the atmosphere is better than ever.
He added: “Last year there was a great crowd and it was good to hear spectators cheering for us in the final – even though we were not British!”
Diede de Groot, the Dutch world number seven, also signaled her form in advance of making her debut at the Masters by winning the women’s singles title in Bath.
Next week will also see Jiske Griffioen and David Wagner, the respective women’s and quad Masters champions, competing in London and hoping to defend their titles at what is one of the most prestigious events on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
Tickets for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters are available from as little as £1. For details visit www.wheelchairtennismasters.com.