Shingo Kunieda of Japan avenged his loss to Maikel Scheffers in the 2011 semifinals as the four-time champion moved into the last four once again on the first day of the Roland Garros wheelchair tennis event, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, and ended the Dutchman’s title defence in Paris.
Meanwhile, the first round of women’s singles matches ended with an all-Dutch semifinal line-up, although 2011 runner-up Marjolein Buis saw her bid to reach another final come to an end.
Less than 24 hours after receiving his 2011 ITF World Champion’s Trophy at the ITF World Champions Dinner, an accolade that was greatly aided by Scheffers winning his first Grand Slam title in Paris last year, the Dutchman’s hold on the world No. 1 ranking looked precarious as Kunieda raced into a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the first set
A thrilling second set saw Kunieda have four match points, but Scheffers proved nothing if not determined as he came from 5-2 down to dominate the tiebreak and force a deciding set.
Kunieda, who is currently world ranked No. 5 after missing much of the last six months through injury, again raced clear at the start of the final set and although Scheffers again showed his powers of recovery to come from 4-1 down to just one game adrift at 5-4, it was the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 champion that eventually prevailed 62 67(1) 64 to end Scheffers quest for a second Roland Garros title.
Kunieda will face 2010 runner-up Stefan Olsson in the semifinals after Olsson upset the current rankings to defeat world No. 6 Michael Jeremiasz of France.
World No. 8 Olsson, who only gained his place in this year’s Roland Garros field after 2011 runner-up Nicolas Peifer was forced to withdraw at the last minute with a hand injury, built a 4-1 lead in his first set against Jeremiasz as he seized the advantage, but an early break in the second set gave Jeremiasz the foundation to level the match.
However, despite serving twice as many doubles faults as Jeremiasz ultimately it was Olsson who played the important points well to eventually seal a 62 36 62 victory.
By comparison, the other two quarterfinals were relatively straight forward.
Current world No. 2 Stephane Houdet moved into the semifinals once again after taking a commanding 4-1 first set lead against his fellow Frenchman Michael Jeremiasz and easing through the rest of the game without dropping another game to wrap up a 61 60 victory.
An early break in the first set also provided the foundation for world No. 3 Ronald Vink to earn a 62 62 victory in his all-Dutch contest against Robin Ammerlaan. Vink will now meet Houdet for the fourth time this year on the NEC Tour, with two of their previous three matches this season having going to three sets, including Houdet’s 64 67 64 victory in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
There was a relative upset in the women’s singles quarterfinals as world No. 10 Sharon Walraven used all her experience to end Marjolein Buis’s bid to reach the final of Roland Garros for the second successive year.
Walraven edged a tense opening set after dominating the tiebreak, and won the points that mattered in the second set to seal a 76(1) 63 victory.
With points won at Roland Garros in 2011 having expired before this week’s world rankings were published, Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock began her second successive campaign in Paris having broken up the quartet of Dutchwomen that were heading the women’s singles rankings.
However, despite achieving a career best ranking at No. 4 after Buis slipped to No. 5, Ellerbrock had little to celebrate in the first set of her match against Jiske Griffioen. After returning to world No. 3 this week, Griffioen raced into through the opening set without dropping a game, and while Ellerbrock enjoyed more success in the second set it was Griffioen who eventually sealed a 60 63 victory to set up a semifinal against world No. 1 Esther Vergeer.
Vergeer opened her bid for a sixth Roland Garros title by dropping three games to Roland Garros debutante Yui Kamiji of Japan, but the 18-year-old world No. 8 had little success in the second set and Vergeer eased to a 63 60 victory.
World No. 2 Aniek van Koot matched Griffioen as she won her opening set against Belgian world No. 6 Annick Sevenans 6-0. Sevenans put up a much stronger second set challenge, but was unable to force a decider and van Koot recorded a 60 75 win that sets up an intriguing semifinal against Griffioen.
First doubles semifinalists decided
There was an upset in the first of the men's doubles semifinals as Kunieda and Cattaneo produced a fine effort to defeat Dutch second seeds Ammerlaan and Vink.
Houdet and Scheffers will play Jeremiasz and Olsson in Thursday's remaining semifinal.
Meanwhile, with Vergeer partnering Buis this year for the women’s doubles at Roland Garros, having won with Walraven in 2011 the first of the semifinals to be played produced an intriguing all-Dutch contest against 2011 runners-up Griffioen and van Koot.
However, Griffioen and van Koot were unable to reach the final once again and it was the second seeded pairing of Buis and Vergeer who pulled through 63 63.
The other semifinal will see top seeds Sevenans and Walraven take on Ellerbrock and Kamiji.
Thursday's wheelchair tennis matches at Roland Garros will take place on courts 7 and 11 from 11.00 and 12.30 local Paris time respectively.
Men's Singles Draw
Men's Doubles Draw
Women's Singles Draw
Women's Doubles Draw
Order of Play: Thursday, 7 June 2012