Photo: Paul ZimmerMaikel Scheffers (NED)
ROLAND GARROS, PARIS: World No. 1 players Maikel Scheffers and Esther Vergeer will bid for a Dutch double for the second year in a row when the Roland Garros wheelchair tennis event, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, gets underway on Wednesday. The event features eight of the world’s leading men’s players and eight of the world’s top women’s players.
Scheffers won his first Grand Slam men’s singles title in Paris in 2011 after defeating Nicolas Peifer of France in the final and will looking to reproduce that kind of form again this year.
His strongest rivals will include Shingo Kunieda, who has recently dropped to world No. 5 following an elbow injury which kept him out of action for several months. The Japanese player also suffered a surprise loss to Stephane Houdet (FRA), one of four Frenchmen in the men’s field of eight who will hope to impress in front of their home crowd, in the semifinals of the Japan Open.
Houdet, who is within striking distance of overtaking Scheffers as world No. 1, and his compatriot Michael Jeremiasz have both defeated Scheffers on more than one occasion this season so will also be in with a chance of the title.
Scheffers’ compatriots Ronald Vink and Robin Ammerlaan and Roland Garros debutant Frederic Cattaneo complete the field.
While four of the eight men’s entries are French, the Dutch presence in the women’s field is even stronger, with Vergeer lining up alongside four of her compatriots.
Vergeer will be the overwhelming favourite to win her sixth Roland Garros title and world No. 2 Aniek van Koot, world No. 3 Marjolein Buis and world No. 4 Jiske Griffioen could be among her strongest challengers. Vergeer, who is currently unbeaten in 454 matches, will play her first Roland Garros in the new tennis wheelchair she debuted at the Pensacola Open in the USA in the spring.
Buis reached her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in 2011, when she became the first opponent in five successive Grand Slam finals that Vergeer had not beaten 60 60. Meanwhile, van Koot has shown impressive form at the Grand Slams recently, finishing as runner-up to Vergeer at the US Open and the Australian Open and will be hoping to go one better in Paris.
If an all-Dutch final is to be avoided, then either Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany, Annick Sevenans of Belgium or Yui Kamiji of Japan will need to reach their first Grand Slam final. Ellerbrock has a fine record against Buis, should they be drawn in the same half of the draw, and a win over van Koot on her record. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Kamiji, currently the world No. 1 ranked junior, has beaten Griffioen this season.
Sevenans has beaten Buis, Griffioen and van Koot in the past, but doing it at a Grand Slam, where Dutch players have such a fine record, provides a different challenge.