Top seeds shine at NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters
08:38 01 December 2016
2016 Getty Images
Competition underway at Olympic Park
Day one of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters saw all of the top seeds in action at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park yesterday.
With all six of the British players in competition, it was also a day that saw the defending champions power through their first matches, but Britain’s Jordanne Whiley – the world number five – was forced to withdraw after her match due to a wrist injury.
Belgium’s Joachim Gerard – the world number three and defending men’s singles champion – opened tournament play as he faced GB 18-year-old Alfie Hewett – the world number seven – in pool one.
It was their first encounter since Hewett defeated Gerard in the semi-finals at the 2016 Paralympic Games and the powerful-serving Belgian took the ascendancy in the first set 6-2 and the second set 6-1.
“I did what I had to do and tried to play my own game. I served well and now just want to get better and better until hopefully the last day,” said Gerard.
A disappointed Hewett added: “Joachim played a good match. He has a big return and anything I did he swatted away. I’m disappointed with how I played.”
In the same pool, world number one Stephane Houdet (France) kicked off his bid to take the Masters title and protect his end of year ranking when he played his compatriot and world number five Nicolas Peifer.
Houdet won the first set on a tie break and, in a close second set, drew on all his experience to take the match 7-6, 6-4.
The 46-year-old Houdet said: “I enjoyed the first day. In your first game it’s all about getting used to the courts. It was close.”
In pool two, GB’s world number two and Paralympic champion Gordon Reid faced world number six Stefan Olsson and the 25-year-old left hander from Scotland took control of the first set 6-2.
But Swede Olsson fought back in a baseline duel to take the second, before Reid won the decider for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory and said: “It was patchy. I started well and was striking the ball cleanly, but a little lack of concentration let him back in.
“He was playing well and I felt it was a good quality match. That’s the goal (to win the Masters and be world number one), but it’s not going to be easy and I’m just focusing on one match at a time.”
Pre-tournament, the players said every match at the Masters is tough and like the first matches in the men’s draw, the women’s draw proved to be equally so.
In pool one it was world number one and defending champion Jiske Griffioen (Netherlands) against Sabine Ellerbrock (Germany), runner-up in 2015.
And Griffioen, 31, powered through the first set 6-0 and didn’t let up, taking the second 6-2, saying: “It felt good to get this first win under my belt. It was my first match since the Paralympics and I felt I took control and played well.”
In the same pool, Japan’s number three seed Yui Kamiji opened her title bid against GB’s Lucy Shuker – the world number eight – having won all seven previous encounters between the pair.
World number three Kamiji took the first set 7-6), but Shuker fought back to 4-4 in the second. before her rival won the next two games to close out victory.
Shuker saidd: “I’m disappointed I lost as I put myself in a position to win, but it’s all about winning in the margins. I’ve plenty of positives to take into the next match.”
Diede de Groot (Netherlands) continued her run of form with an impressive Masters debut performance against compatriot and world number four Marjolein Buis.
And the 19-year-old de Groot took the match 6-4, 6-1 and said: “I was a little nervous and to win my opening game against the number four seed feels really good. It’s a good start.”
In pool two, 2014 champion and world number two Aniek van Koot (Netherlands) opened her campaign against GB’s world number five Jordanne Whiley in yet another tight match.
Van Koot clinched the first set 7-5 and went on to take the second 6-4, before Whiley announced her withdrawal from the tournament due to a wrist injury.
In the quad division, David Wagner (USA) opened his title defence against former world number one Shraga Weinberg (Israel) and pulled back in the first set to level 5-5 and win it 7-5, before taking the next 6-2.
It was an all-British encounter in pool two as GB’s world number four Andy Lapthorne took on world number 11 Antony Cotterill, who was playing in his first Masters abd given little time to settle.
Lapthorne took the first set in quick time and went on to win the match 6-1, 6-1, saying: “To start my tournament with a win is nice and to have played well is good. We’ve trained hard for this.
“It’s always difficult to play against a good friend, but you just have to do it.”
Lapthore faces Korea’s world number six Kuy Seung Kim in his next match and added: “It will be difficult. He’ll swing hard and has nothing to lose, but hopefully I can progress to the semis. I want to win, that’s my goal.”
After more than eight hours of world class tennis on day one of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, play starts at 11am today (Thursday), with all of the top seeds once again in action.
Tickets for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters are available from as little as £1, visit wheelchairtennismasters.com.