Photo: Paul ZimmerStephane Houdet (FRA)
The men’s singles and quad singles provided the main headlines during Wednesday’s first day of play at the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships, a part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, at Melbourne Park as the top two seeds were stretched to three sets in the men’s singles and world No. 1 and defending champion David Wagner lost his opening round-robin quad singles match.
World No. 3 Stephane Houdet, the runner-up in the last three Australian Opens, edged the match of the day as he took on Dutch world No. 4 Ronald Vink. Houdet fired 15 aces, while Vink served twice as many double faults as the Frenchman, but it was the matter of just a few points in each set that ultimately mattered as Houdet progressed 64 67(7) 64 to reach the semifinals after one minute short of two hours of play.
World No. 1 Maikel Scheffers also faced an uphill task after dropping the first set of his opening match to world No. 8 Satoshi Saida of Japan. Saida was the final player to gain entry into the elite field of eight players after the withdrawal of his compatriot and multiple Australian Open champion Shingo Kunieda due to injury, but Saida provided more than enough problems for the Dutchman Scheffers.
However, with Saida only able to convert five of his ten break point opportunities, while Scheffers converted seven of his eight chances, it was the top seed that wrapped up a 46 62 63 victory after two hours and 18 minutes.
The first men’s singles match on court ended with Swedish world No. 7 Stefan Olsson ending the challenge of Australia’s Ben Weekes 61 60 after needing only 22 minutes to win each set. Olsson faces Scheffers in the last four as the two former NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champions go head-to-head.
Meanwhile, former champion Robin Ammerlaan of the Netherlands had the same issues as Saida and could only convert one of his seven break point opportunities against world No. 5 Nicolas Peifer of France and Peifer advanced 63 61 to book a semifinal against Houdet and ensure that there will be a Dutch presence in the final.
Gershony beats world No. 1 and defending champion Wagner
After winning the first Super Series title of his career in Sydney just two days ago, Israel’s world No. 3 Noam Gershony again got the better of world No. 1 Wagner as the first of three sets of quad singles round-robin matches got underway.
Gershony came from 5-4 down to take the first set and opened up a commanding 5-1 second set lead before finally sealing a 75 63 victory to get his Australian Open debut off to a solid start.
In the other quad singles match four-time Australian Open champion Peter Norfolk twice went a break up on his fellow Briton Andrew Lapthorne at 2-0 and 4-2 in the opening set before Lapthorne levelled the match on both occasions. However, another subsequent break gained Norfolk the first set. From 2-0 down and 5-3 down in the second set Lapthorne held on to force a tiebreak, earning his one and only set point at 6-5 in the tiebreak before Norfolk finished the job with a sequence of three successive points to prevail 64 76(6).
Gershony plays Norfolk and Lapthorne faces Wagner on Thursday as the round-robin phase of the event continues, while Lapthorne and Norfolk will bid to retain their quad doubles title against Gershony and Wagner later in the day.
Ellerbrock reaches women's semifinals alongside Dutch trio
Esther Vergeer stretched her winning streak to 442 matches in the first round of the women’s singles, winning the first six games and the last four games in her 60 62 win over Belgian world No. 7 Annick Sevenans 60 62.
With three Dutchwomen making the semifinals, Vergeer will play Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in the last four. Ellerbrock marked her Australian Open debut with a 61 75 victory over Japan’s 17-year-old Yui Kamiji, who gained a late place in the draw after the withdrawal of Dutch world No. 3 Jiske Griffioen earlier this month.
In the only all-Dutch first round match world No.2 Aniek Van Koot dominated the points when her first serve went into play, despite hitting double figures with her double fault count, and she went on to defeater her world No. 8 ranked compatriot Sharon Walraven 64 62.
Van Koot will now contest an intriguing semifinal against 2011 Ronald Garros runner-up and world N. 4 Marjolein Buis. Buis had much the better of the opening set of her match against Australia’s former world No. 1 and home favourite Daniela di Toro and the Dutchwoman led 5-3 in the second set before di Toro hit back to lead 6-5. But Buis held on in the tiebreak to complete a 62 76(3) victory.