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There were dramatic comebacks in the first set of round-robin matches in both the men’s singles and women’s singles on the opening day of the 2012 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in Mechelen, Belgium, while the top two seeded players in the quad singles both secured comfortable victories in their opening matches at Heiveld Tennis Centre.
Olsson recovers from the brink of defeat to overcome Vink
The comeback of the day came in the men’s Pool 1 match between world No.7 and two-time NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion Stefan Olsson of Sweden and Dutch world No. 4 Ronald Vink of the Netherlands.
Vink led by a set and 5-3 and served for the match before Olsson saved two match points en route to taking the second set on a tiebreak.
The Swedish player then built a 5-0 in the third and deciding set third set before finally closing out for a remarkable 16 76(3) 61 victory.
“Luckily the two matches points I faced were on my serve and then I somehow managed to stretch to get back a backhand volley, I still don’t understand how,” said a delighted Olsson. “After that anything seemed possible and I kept on fighting all the match, my serve got better, I reduced my double faults and I eventually I got the win.”
Olsson will face world No. 1 and defending champion Stephane Houdet in the second of their three round matches on Thursday after Houdet also had to come from behind to defeat his fellow Frenchman and world No. 5 Michael Jeremiasz 76(6) 75.
Jeremiasz took a 4-2 lead in the opening set before being taken to a first set tiebreak in which he built a commanding 5-1 lead. However, after missing the opportunity to capitalise on three set points at 6-3 up, Jeremiasz lost five points in succession as Houdet grabbed the initiative. Jeremiasz then saw a 5-2 second set lead disappear as Houdet fought back once more to ensure he started his title defence with a victory.
In men’s Pool 2, 2009 NEC Masters champion and world No. 2 Maikel Scheffers beat Argentina’s world No. 6 and NEC Masters debutant Gustavo Fernandez 6-2 7-5.
After Scheffers dominated the opening set, Fernandez took a 4-2 second set lead and had set points at 5-4 up, but Scheffers fought back and eventually took the contest on his second match point as he opened his bid to reach the final once again, having finished runner-up to Houdet last year.
“I was really happy with the first set, it’s a long time since I played a good first set against him (Fernandez),” said Scheffers. “I’ve changed coaches and changed my training since the London Paralympics and it all seems to be working, so I’m happy.”
The Dutchman’s second opponent in the round-robin phase of the competition will be world No. 3 Shingo Kunieda (JPN), after the two-time Paralympic gold medallist opened his campaign to try and win his first NEC Masters title with a 62 64 win over Great Britain’s Gordon Reid, who joins Fernandez in also making his NEC Masters debut this year
Kunieda proved to be much the stronger earlier in the match en route to repeating his victory over Reid in July’s British Open final, but the Japanese player lost three set points at 5-4 and 40-0 up in the second set as Reid created a game point to make it 5-.5. However, Kunieda finally converted his fourth match point to seal victory.
Top seed van Koot battles back to edge out Walraven
The day’s only all-Dutch contest provided the biggest turnaround in fortunes as the women’s singles round-robin matches got underway, with world No. 2 and top seed Aniek van Koot defeating world No. 8 Sharon Walraven 26 75 75
Walraven was 2-0 up in the second set, before van Koot fought back to force the final set and last year’s runner-up also edged the decider prevail.
“All credit to Sharon, she played really well in the first set, put me under pressure and any tactic I tried it didn’t work” said van Koot. But she started to make a little bit more errors than I did and in the end it wasn’t the best match, perhaps, from either of us, it was who made less errors, but of course I’m very glad to have come through”.
Van Koot will have another all-Dutch contest in her second round-robin match in Pool 1 as she takes on world No. 5 Jiske Griffioen.
Griffioen made a confident start to her latest NEC Masters campaign as she beat South Africa’s world No. 10 Kgothatso Montjane, the first African player to contest the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, 61 60.
Aside from van Koot’s victory, there was a second three set match on the opening day of play in the women’s event as world No. 4 Marjolein Buis edged her way to a 63 46 64 win over local Belgian favourite and world No. 9 Annick Sevenans in Pool 2.
After Buis had made the better start Sevenans had set points at 5-2 in the second set, but lost them. However Sevenans eventually managed to force the deciding se before taking a taken a 3-1 lead. But she lost the next four games and Buis went on to finish strongest to wrap up a tense victory.
Buis faces Germany’s world No. 3 Sabine Ellerbrock in their second Pool 2 match on Thursday. Ellerbrock opened her second NEC Masters campaign by dropping the first two games of her match against British world No. 7 Lucy Shuker, but the second seed went on to secure a comfortable 63 62 win over Shuker.
Wagner and Lapthorne making winning starts
World No. 1 David Wagner of USA and 2011 runner-up and second seed Andy Lapthorne of Great Britain won the opening two matches in the quad singles and will now face each other on Thursday’s second day of play.
Lapthorne needed just 47 minutes to defeat Swedish world No. 8 Anders Hard 61 61, the Briton dropping just the just the second game of the first set and the fifth game of the second set as he avenged his loss to Hard in the first round of the quad singles at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in September.
“Coming into this after the London Paralympics, where Anders beat me and I felt like I let a few people down, I’ve trained hard and I’m really pleased to show people that watched that match in London what I can do,” said world No. 4 Lapthorne. “I’m on a winning run now since the Paralympics, so let’s hope it continues.”
Wagner took even less time to complete a 60 60 victory over his fellow American and world No. 5 Nick Taylor.
“No match is easy, especially here at the Masters, where you’ve got the best players who’ve all qualified to be here,” said Wagner. “I’ve played Nick a lot and it’s always hard to play him, but you’ve got to be ready to give it your best.”