The Top 10 ranked men, eight of the Top 10 women, and eight of the Top 10 ranked quad players are set to contest the Japan Open in Iizuka City, Fukuoka on 14-19 May.
The Japan Open, a part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the third Super Series tournament of 2012, carries by far the most ranking points of the four tournaments taking place during the final week of the qualification period for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. NEC Tour events also take place over the coming week in France, Italy and Russia.
The men’s singles event sees the return of world No. 3 and six-time Japan Open champion Shingo Kunieda, who has been out of action with an injury since claiming the title at the 2011 US Open. His four-year reign as world No. 1 came to an end in December 2011 when Dutchman Maikel Scheffers usurped him and went on to become ITF World Champion.
Frenchmen Stephane Houdet and Michael Jeremiasz are all likely to be strong contenders alongside Scheffers and his fellow Dutchman Ronald Vink. Howver, Houdet and Jeremiasz's compatriot Nicolas Peifer became the first seed to exit the men's singles on the first day of play when the world No. 5 was beaten 36 63 75 by Belgian world No. 21 Joachim Gerard.
Several other fascinating first round matches included former champion and world No. 7 Robin Ammerlaan's 76(5) 64 victory over Japanese world No. 10 and 2011 semifinalist Takashi Sanada, while Argentina’s leading junior player and world No. 15 Gustavo Fernandez defeated world No. 13 Ben Weekes of Australia 63 60.
Two former champions line up in the women’s singles, defending champion and world No. 3 Jiske Griffioen of the Netherlands and Australian world No. 8 Daniela di Toro.
In the absence of world No. 1 Esther Vergeer, Griffioen will be among the favourites to win her third Japan Open title, having first won in Iizuka City in 2005, while di Toro claimed the last of her six victories at the event in 2010.
World No. 5 and fourth seed Sabine Ellerbrock is the highest ranked non-Dutch player, while world No. 7 Yui Kamiji will lead the home challenge after giving Griffioen something of a fright in last year’s quarterfinals. Kamiji and Griffioen are drawn in the same quarter of the draw again this year.
While all eight women’s seeds have first round byes, the pick of the first round matches include that between world No. 19 Louise Hunt of Great Britain and world No. 21 Emmy Kaiser of USA.
World No. 1 David Wagner of USA has won the Japan Open quad singles title for the last five years, following on from current world No. 2 Peter Norfolk of Great Britain who collected the third of his three titles in 2006. With less than 200 points separating Wagner and Norfolk at the top of the quad singles world rankings, the Japan Open title will not be the only thing on the line this week.
World No. 3 Noam Gershony of Israel is in Wagner’s half of the draw, while former world No. 1 Shraga Weinberg is a potential quarterfinal opponent for Norfolk.