Tokyo 2020 Paralympics: Shuker and Whiley reach women’s doubles final
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Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley became the first British wheelchair tennis partnership to reach a Paralympic women’s doubles final on Thursday’s seventh day of play at the Ariake Tennis Park.
They join Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid in playing for Tokyo 2020 doubles gold or silver medals, but it wasn’t to be for Hewett and Reid in their men’s singles semi-finals.
The Rio gold and silver medallists will play each other for the bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 after Reid’s hopes of retaining his Paralympic title ended against Japan’s world No.1 Shingo Kunieda and Hewett’s hopes of going one better than his Rio silver ended against Dutchman Tom Egberink.
Whiley will also play Aniek van Koot of the Netherlands for the women’s singles bronze medal after the world No.4’s hopes of the gold medal ended against top seed Diede de Groot of the Netherlands.
Shuker and Whiley made a strong start to their women’s doubles semi-final against Chinese duo Ziying Wang and Zhenzhen, establishing a 5-2 lead before earning their first set point. However, they had to wait until the tenth game before taking their next opportunity, Shuker converting a third set point with a dropshot volley at the net.
Amid a succession of entertaining rallies, the Brits then put together five games in a row in the second set, with Whiley putting away an overhead forehand at the net to set up match point and Shuker swiping away an angled forehand volley to seal a 6-4, 6-2 victory after two hours and two minutes.
Second seeds Shuker and Whiley will now play Dutch top seeds Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot for the gold medal.
Reid was unable to maintain his momentum after winning the first two games of his semi-final against Kunieda and the home favourite showed exactly why he is a 45-time Grand Slam champion as he opened up a 4-0 second set lead on his way to beating Reid 6-3, 6-2.
Hewett went into his semi-final against Egberink with the Dutchman leading their career head-to-head and the world No.8 continued to post plenty of questions for Hewett.
Hewett’s powers of recovery that have so often been seen to great effect in Grand Slam competition were again in evidence as he chased down balls to save two match points at 5-3 down in the second set and the world No.2 went on to force the tie-break.
However, Hewett faced three more match points at 6-3 down in the tie-break and despite saving the first two he missed Egberink’s baseline with the third to give the Dutch player the win 6-4, 7-6(5).
Whiley’s hopes of a first ever Paralympic singles medal now depend on a bronze play-off contest against world No.3 Van Koot after the British No.1 and world No.4 lost out to top seed De Groot 6-4, 6-2.
Whiley was unable to convert a game point that would have given her a 3-1 first set lead against De Groot and while she posed plenty of questions for the Dutchwoman, Whiley found it difficult to penetrate her defences.
In what she has said will be her final Paralympics, Whiley will now bid to extend her recent winning streak against Van Koot to earn a much sought-after singles medal.