Champions crowned at NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters


| NEC Wheelchair Masters

Joachim Gerard, Jiske Griffioen and David Wagner all succesfullyy defended their NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters titles as play came to a close after five days of action at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

At 11am and to rapturous cheers from the stands, Gordon Reid (GBR) and Joachim Gerard (BELGIUM) wheeled onto court for the men’s singles final.  Both looked focused and relaxed.  Only one would lift the trophy.

 It was Gerard who 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. Gerard hit back to take the match to 4-3 but to roars from the home crowd, Reid broke the Belgian’s serve to bring them level at 4-4.

Both players sought chinks in each other’s game to gain an edge and it was Reid who looked like he was building momentum as he moved to 5-4. Moments later, against Gerard’s serve he took the first set 6-4 when the powerful Belgian double-faulted. Reid had yet to drop a set in the tournament.  Was the NEC Masters men’s crown destined for British hands? 

 The second set saw neither player give an inch, 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.  A delightful sliced backhand by Gerard gave him set point but Reid took the next two points before Gerard served to take the second set 4-6.   Now it was Gerard who increasingly asserted his authority, in the third set moving to 4-0 with his powerful serve. 

On serve, Reid dug deep and took the next game but Gerard continued to punish with his serve taking the third to 5-1.  Reid fought back and took the match to 5-4 in the third but the power of Gerard’s serve and returns wasn’t to be denied and he served out to retain his singles title 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Gerard punched the air in celebration and made the two sign with his fingers to show his delight at having come from behind in both the 2015 and 2016 final to win the men’s singles in the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.  He told the assembled media: “It think 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.”

Later, it was a disappointed Reid who reflected on his match: “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 (Gerard) started nailing his shots and it was difficult to find my rhythm for the first time this week.  I feel frustrated … but Joachim played well. It (the result) gives me a bit of a kick and reminds me that there is still a lot of things I can work on.”

After the excitement of the men’s final, Griffioen and Kamiji came on to centre court to do battle.  Griffioen came from 3-1 down and snatched the opening set 6-4 forcing errors off Kamiji.  She took the opening set 6-4 in 40 minutes after a long rally that ended with Kamiji sending a forehand into the net.

In less than an hour, the second set saw Griffioen continue to press Kamiji.  The world No.1 had said she would increase the intensity of her play against Kamiji and at 3-1 up in the second it appeared Griffioen’s strategy was working. But Kamiji had her own ideas and after 75 minutes of play took the match to 4-4. 

Kamiji missed the opportunity to go 5-4 up in the second and it was Griffioen who shot back to lead 5-4 and be within touching distance of defending her title. Minutes later, on serve Kamiji double faulted and it was over. With a score line of 6-4, 6-4, Griffioen had defended her NEC Masters title and yelped in delight.

A smiling Griffioen said: “I’m really happy.  It has been a long, tough week.  She (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 (Masters) title. For me the Masters is kind of like a 5th Slam as you are competing against only the top 8 players in the world. Today was another close fight and I’m pleased to end it on a high.”

Kamiji commented: “This week I have been very happy with my performance but not today. She (Griffioen) knew where I wanted to hit it (shots) and I think I need to change (some of my shots) for next year. I don’t like being runner-up (laughs).  This year was not my best performance and I want to learn more.”

With the men’s and women’s NEC Masters titles decided, it was time to contest the quad final.  Wagner came into the match with the experience of competing and winning on the last day of major tournaments. 

He had his sights on his 5th consecutive NEC Masters title.  For his opponent, an NEC Masters final was new territory.  In the first set, Wagner carved out a 4-1 lead but the Israeli pulled him back to 4-3.  Wagner was not to be denied and took the first set 6-4.  In the second, Wagner made his experience tell and he raced through the second set to take the set 6-1 and clinch his ninth NEC Wheelchair Masters title.

Wagner wheeled away in delight and later told the media: “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. 

"Like 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 (to win and be here).  I don’t know what it is that means I peak at the end of the season – I just know I love tennis!”  Post match, Erenlib simply commented: “I did my best.”   

The matches for third place also took place today. Stefan Olsson (SWEDEN) defeated Stephane Houdet (FRANCE) 6-3, 6-1.  The Dutch pair Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot contested third place in the women’s singles. De Groot took that match 6-1, 6-1. In the quad division, Andy Lapthorne (GBR) defeated Kyu-Seung Kim (KOREA) 6-1, 6-2.


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