16 Jul 2017

Olsson, de Groot net first Grand Slam singles titles

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Takeo TanumaStefan Olsson (SWE)

As with the ladies’ singles final on Saturday, the ‘surprise’ winner of the men’s event, Stefan Olsson, was not really that surprising.

He may have been ranked No. 7 of the eight contestants, but it quickly became obvious that the Swede was the man to beat here and he did not disappoint, defeating the new world No. 1 Gustavo Fernandez 75 36 75 in the final on Sunday.

What is a little surprising is that it is Olsson’s first Grand Slam success in 19 years of playing the sport.

At least Netherlands’ Diede de Groot, who also won her first Slam in the ladies’ singles with a 60 64 victory over Germany's Sabine Ellerbrock, is only 20.

Even Fernandez could not begrudge last year's beaten finalist his moment of glory.

“He played a great match because he took the chances when he had them,” said the Argentine of Olsson. “I’m very happy for him because I think he’s a good guy. He deserves it, he’s done a great job during the years. He’s a fair winner.”

All week Olsson had been telling anyone who cared to listen that he loved the grass. It’s a difficult surface to play on for wheelchair athletes because, unlike on hard court, there is very little freewheeling, it requires a big effort all the time. But Olsson took to the green stuff at SW19 as though his name was Federer. 

In fact, probably the only person who did not fully grasp the magnitude of his success, was Olsson himself. He kept shaking the trophy as if testing that it was real and it wasn’t a dream. Olsson had won the doubles here in 2010 with the now-retired Robin Ammerlaan, of Netherlands, but this was a completely new experience for him.

“The feeling is indescribable, the best in the world,” he said. “I won the gold medal in the 2012 London Paralympics (with Peter Vikstrom) but this beats it by a mile!”

Olson’s breakthrough in this match – break being the operative word – was in the 11th game of the third set when, with break point against the Fernandez serve, the powerful Olsson hit a forehand winner straight off a good serve. When he clinched championship point, having come from 5-3 down, he dropped his racquet and briefly pondered the moment while Fernandez waited patiently at the net to congratulate him.

“I was stressed a bit because I knew this could be my only chance of winning a Grand Slam,” said Olsson. “I have the potential to win a lot of Grand Slams but you have to do the work as well. I haven’t got any big sponsors so I didn’t know if I was going to play after this – that made it a little bit extra tense.”

As with Messrs Murray and Djokovic, the Swede also felt that having a new addition had helped calm him down by giving a different perspective on life.

His baby boy, Vincenzo, suggested he would be born the day Olsson was due to leave for the Australian Open in January, as that’s when his wife’s waters broke - six weeks early. Needless to say, he never took the flight to Melbourne and with the aid of medical expertise, ‘Vinci’ was given a couple more days in the womb.

“I’m stronger in the head now,” he said. “I actually think the little one has helped a lot there. He’s taken away the pressure a little bit. The baby has put everything in perspective – tennis is great but there is something bigger out there and that’s him and my family.”

Just for a change the Dutch were denied victory in a ladies’ doubles final when Jordanne Whiley, of Great Britain, and Yui Kamiji, of Japan, beat Marjolein Buis and de Groot 26 63 60. You don’t have to be good friends in doubles to be successful, but it helps, as Whiley and Kamiji confirmed.

“Although a lot of doubles partnerships get on well, me and Yui just know each other inside and out,” said Whiley, for whom this was her tenth Grand Slam title in total in singles or doubles. “We spend a lot of time together off the court. We really do know what makes each other tick.

“I think today our first set didn’t go to plan. I wasn’t playing so well, Yui wasn’t feeling so confident. Sometimes we don’t even have to speak to each other, it’s simple little winks or eye contact. We haven’t played together for a year, I’ve had a lot of time out, but we can still come back and win Wimbledon again.”

Kamiji and Whiley's victory meant that three Brits ended the whelchair tennis event having won titles in front of large and entusiastic crowds watching on Court No. 3.

Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid got the better of Rio Paralympic gold medallists Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer of Frane after a final set tiebreak in Saturday's men's doubles final. as the two partnerships went to a third set tiebreak for the second successive year in the final, Rio silver medallists Hewett and Reid retained their title 67(5) 75 76(3).