Photo: Tommy HindleyUSA players at the draw ceremony
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: The draw for the Paralympic Tennis Event took place at Eton Manor today with Francesco Ricci Bitti, Johan Cruyff and a host of wheelchair tennis players on hand to witness the draw unfold ahead of the action getting under way on Saturday.
Frenchman Stephane Houdet is the top seed in the men's singles event and has been drawn to face Suthi Khlongrua in the first round, while reigning champion Shingo Kunieda of Japan begins his gold medal defence against Rafael Medeiros Gomes.
Esther Vergeer, the women's No. 1 seed, begins her campaign versus Kanako Domori. The Dutch player, who is currently on an incredible 465 match winning streak dating back to 2003, is bidding for her fourth straight singles gold medal.
The No. 1 seed in the quad singles event, David Wagner, opens his account against Lucas Sithole, while the American's big rival, Peter Norfolk, meets Mitsuteru Moroishi. Norfolk, who carried Great Britain's flag at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, is attempting to win his third straight singles gold medal.
The draw, held in front of a packed audience at Eton Manor, was officially opened by ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “On behalf of the International Tennis Federation, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to Eton Manor for the Wheelchair Tennis Event of the London 2012 Paralympic Games,” he said.
“It is a great honour for us to have all of you here today and especially Johan Cruyff, the famous football player whose Cruyff Foundation has for 10 years supported the Silver Fund, an initiative of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Department to provide disabled children and adults in developing countries with opportunities to enjoy an active and rewarding life. Some of those players are now competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
“Wheelchair tennis was introduced to the Paralympic Games in 1988 as a demonstration sport and became a full medal event at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Over the years, we have watched our sport become one of the highest profile events in the Paralympic Games with top athletes and big crowds… perhaps none bigger than those expected over the coming days.
“We are delighted that, for the first time, the Wheelchair Tennis Event will be held in a purpose-built stadium which will further underline what is sure to be a fantastic week of sporting excellence. Eton Manor is the only Paralympic-specific venue that is being used at London 2012 and will be a legacy for tennis in this part of London.”
In total, 112 players from 31 nations are competing at the Paralympic Tennis Event, which is being staged at Eton Manor on 1-8 September. The tournament is shaping up to be biggest ever with record crowds expected to watch the world’s best wheelchair tennis players compete for medals.
Click the PDF links to view the full draws.