Photo: Vincent Van Doornick/Philippe BuissinMaikel Scheffers (NED)
Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands ended the men’s singles title defence of world No. 1 Stephane Houdet of France in spectacular fashion in Saturday’s semifinals at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters in Mechelen, Belgium. Scheffers will now face world No. 3 Shingo Kunieda of Japan in Sunday’s final, while world No. 2 Aniek van Koot and world No. 5 Jiske Griffioen will contest an all-Dutch women’s singles final.
Scheffers stuns Houdet, while Kunieda eases past Olsson
World No. 2 Scheffers will bid to win his second NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters title after the 2009 champion came from three match points down in the second set to defeat 2011 champion Houdet.
After both players had broken each other’s serve in the first eight games, Houdet won three games in a row to take the opening set.
Top seed Houdet had match three match points in the second set tiebreak, two at 6-4 and another at 7-6 but Houdet’s serve let him down and Scheffers went on to earn his first set point at 8-7, which he converted to force the deciding set.
Scheffers broke to love to take a 2-1 lead in the deciding set and extended his lead to 4-1 before moving to within one game of victory at 5-3. However, Houdet made it 5-4 and had game points to level at 5-5, which he eventually did, but not before Scheffers lost three separate match point of his own.
Houdet then had points to force a final set tiebreak, but in the end he sent a high looping ball long over the Dutch second seed’s baseleine to bring a gripping contest to an end, with Scheffers finally winning 57 76(7) 75.
The other men’s semifinal produced far less drama. Two-time NEC Masters champion Stefan Olsson of Sweden led Kunieda 1-0 and 2-1 in the opening set, but Kunieda went on to win 11 of the next 12 games to seal a 63 60 victory after 65 minutes and the two-time Paralympic gold medallist will now bid to win the one major title in the sport to have so far eluded him.
Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina, who came into the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters world ranked No. 6, finished fifth in his debut at the event after defeating Dutch world No. 4 Ronald Vink 26 62 62. Fernandez secured a decisive 4-0 lead in the second set and won the last five games of the deciding set to end his tournament in style.
World No. 10 Gordon Reid finished seventh after being awarded a walkover due to the withdrawal of Frenchman Michael Jeremiasz with injury.
Van Koot reaches second successive final and faces Griffioen
2011 NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters runner-up Aniek van Koot eased into her second successive women’s singles final in Belgium after putting up a fine performance to defeat Germany’s world No. 3 Sabine Ellerbrock.
Van Koot won the last five games of the first set against and built a commanding 5-0 second set lead en route to securing a 62 62 victory.
“My coach said it was maybe my match ever, but although I don’t really agree with him I had a good day today,” said van Koot.”I felt my strokes were good and my serve. I lost my focus in the second set at 5-0 up, but then I got it back and I’m really pleased. I feel that I’m getting better and better every day here and hopefully it will be a good final against my friend Jiske.”
Griffioen came from 3-1 down in the opening set of her semifinal against world No. 4 Marjolein Buis and, like van Koot, also win five games in a row to take the opening set. From 1-1 in the second set Griffioen then won the next three games and, although Buis made it 4-2, Griffioen maintained her momentum to close out a 63 62 victory after an hour and 12 minutes.
The play-off for fifth and sixth in the women’s singles saw Belgian world No. 9 Annick Sevenans bring the curtain down on her singles career with a 64 62 victory over world No. 8 Sharon Walraven of the Netherlands. After next week’s Invacare Doubles Masters Sevenans will retire from wheelchair tennis to concentrate on pursuing her studies in European politics.
Sevenans broke Walraven’s serve to lead 3-1 and maintained that two game cushion to claim the opening set. She broke again at the start of the second set and finalised fifth place after winning the last three games.
World No. 10 Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa ended her first NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters on a winning note after beating world No. 7 Lucy Shuker of Great Britain in straight sets. Montjane broke Shuker’s serve to lead 4-3 in the first set and took the last two games of the opener.
An early break in the second set gave Montjane a 3-1 lead and she again won the last two games of the second set to secure a 64 62 victory.