17 May 2017

Alcott, Sithole taken to deciders in Iizuka openers

News Article

Photo: Akira AndoDylan Alcott (AUS)

Dylan Alcott’s eighth straight quad singles match win at the Japan Open, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, came after something of a breakthrough for his childhood friend and doubles partner Heath Davidson on Wednesday in Iizuka, Japan.

Alcott, the 2015 and 2016 champion in Iizuka, dropped just his second set of tennis at the third Super Series event of the year and just his first set to Davidson before the top seed and world No. 1 advanced 75 26 62 on what was a day of conflicting fortunes for the quad seeds.

Alcott has secured his two Japan Open singles titles to date after beating Lucas Sithole and David Wagner in the semifinals and final in each of the last two years. However, he won’t face either player until this year’s final, should any of the three of them progress that far, as Sithole and Wagner are drawn in the opposite half of the draw to the Australian.

Aside from Alcott’s three-set win over Davidson, the other three seeds in the top half of this year’s quad singles  draw were rarely troubled in their opening matches as seventh seed Mitsuteru Moroishi and eighth seed Greg Hasterok both dropped just one game apiece.

Meanwhile, world No. 3 Andy Lapthorne eased to a 61 61 won over Chinese Taipei’s 2006 Japan Open finalist Tzu-Hsuan Huang to earn his place in the last eight against Moroishi.  

Alcott, Sithole and Wagner are the only players to have won the Japan Open quad singles title since 2007 and world No. 2 Wagner began his bid for an eighth title in Iizuka with a routine 60 60 victory over fellow American Steve Baxter. By comparison, Wagner’s next opponent, sixth seed Antony Cotterill, recovered from a slow start against Japan’s Keiji Kongo to advance 26 63 63.

Cotterill was not the only one to struggle to find form early in the tournament. Fourth seed Sithole eventually found a way past former world No. 6 Shota Kawano to wrap up his eighth straight win over the Japanese player 36 64 60.

South Africa’s 2014 Japan Open champion next faces Korea Republic fifth seed Kyu-Seung Kim after Kim matched Wagner with an opening 60 60 win.

Peifer and Hewett on track for quarterfinal meeting

Nicolas Peifer and Alfie Hewett, who contested the first men’s singles Super Series final of 2017 in Sydney in January, are on course to meet in the quarterfinals this week in Iizuka.

The world No. 5 and world No. 7 both need to beat Thai opposition in their next matches to set up the rematch as Peifer faces Wittaya Peem-Mee next and Hewett takes on Banjob Suwan.

Hewett gained the crucial breaks to beat Korea Republic’s Ho Won Im 64 64 as the Rio Paralympic silver medallist began his challenge, while world No. 1 Stephan Houdet also clinched the points that mattered to find his way past Australian Ben Weekes 63 64.

However, by far the most thrilling of the first round wins in two days of men’s singles competition belonged to Malaysia’s Abu Samah Borhan, who brought himself level with Korea Republic’s Sung-Bong Han in career head-to-heads after clinching a final set tiebreak. Borhan’s 36 64 76(5) victory means that he will meet Houdet for the very first time on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

Identical 61 62 first round wins for world No. 6 Stefan Olsson and world No. 10 Takuya Miki mean they will also go head-to-head for a place in the quarterfinals.

Women’s qualifiers to vie for quarterfinal places

The eight seeded players in the women’s singles will finally begin their campaigns on Thursday in Iizuka after two of the four players that made it through the qualifying round also booked their places in the last 16.

With Japanese and Thai players meeting in two of the first round matches involving qualifiers, Emi Suda made it two wins in two days on home soil after holding off Chanungarn Techamaneewat 60 76(5).  Elsewhere, Thailand came out on top as Wanitha Inthanin beat Tomomi Miyama 60 61 to also back up her win in Tuesday’s qualifying round.

A second win on the day for a Thai women’s player saw former world No. 6 Sakhorn Khanthasit set up an intriguing meeting with Dutch third seed Marjolein Buis as the two players prepare to meet at the same stage of the tournament for the second successive year.

Suda and Inthanin’s successes could not be emulated by fellow qualifiers Kanae Kodama and Naomi Ishimoto, who bowed out in straight sets to Saki Takamuro and Dana Mathewson. Takamuro plays 2012 Japan Open champion and fifth seed Sabine Ellerbrock for a place in the last eight this year, while Mathewson lines up against eighth seed Kgothatso Montjane.  

Ellerbrock was the last player to win the women’s singles title in Iizuka before current world No. 2 and top seed Yui Kamiji. Kamiji will begin her bid for a fifth successive Japan Open title against Korea Republic’s Ju-Youn Park.