Photo: Steve WylieYui Kamiji (JPN)
Shingo Kunieda, Yui Kamiji and David Wagner won the men’s, women’s and quad singles titles at the 20th NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. Kamiji made history at the Margeurite Tennis Pavilion in Mission Viejo, California by becoming the first non-Dutch player to win the women’s singles title in the event’s 20-year history.
Kamiji started the Japanese double later completed by Kunieda after securing a 76(3) 36 64 victory over defending champion Jiske Griffioen, who was bidding to continue the Dutch dominance, in the final.
Kamiji went on to partner Britain’s Jordanne Whiley to win the ITF Wheelchair Doubles Masters women’s title later on the final day of the year-end singles and doubles championships for the world’s top players. Meanwile, Wagner added to his successful defence of the NEC Masters quad singles title by partnering fellow American Nick Taylor to retain the quad doubles title.
World No. 4 Kamiji’s only loss in the round-robin phase of the women’s singles came in three sets against defending champion Jiske Griffioen, but as the two players met again in the final the Dutch world No. 3’s serve let her down at crucial times as 19-year-old Kamiji wrapped up an incredible NEC Masters debut with her second career win over Griffioen.
“It’s been a great week at the NEC Masters here in Mission Viejo. I’d like to thank Jiske Griffioen and her team for making such a great final. She was a really tough opponent,” said Kamiji. “It’s been a great season. I won my first Super Series and Masters titles and reached my highest ranking position. I look forward to playing the next season and hopefully winning a Grand Slam title.”
Kunieda also lost one of his three round-robin matches, but had already ensured his place in the semifinals before being edged out by French world No. 6 Nicolas Peifer in a final set tiebreak in their third and last pool match. Kunieda went on to beat world No. 2 Stephane Houdet of France 62 26 62 in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Belgium’s world No. 6 Joachim Gerard beat Houdet and Dutch world No. 3 Maikel Scheffers in the round-robin phase before advancing to the final, but Kunieda dominated the opening set of the final. Gerard fought back to have set points in the second set tiebreak and saved a series of match points, but Kunieda eventually prevailed 60 76(9)to win his second successive NEC Masters title.
On home soil, Californian Wagner thrilled his home supporters with three straight sets wins in the round-robin phase of the quad singles, but the American world No. 1 was outplayed by South Africa’s world No. 2 Lucas Sithole in the first set of the final as Sithole sought to add the NEC Masters title to his US Open title. However, Wagner dominated the closing games in the second and third sets for a 06 62 62 victory to clinch his sixth NEC Masters title.
Top seeds win ITF Wheelchair Doubles Masters titles
With the NEC Masters titles decided, Kamiji paired up with Whiley to justify top seeding in the women’s doubles. Kamiji and Whiley beat Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock and Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa 64 61 in the final to end another trend of a Dutch player having been a part of the winning partnership in all 13 previous ITF Wheelchair Doubles Masters. The previous 12 women’s titles had been won by all-Dutch pairings.
Houdet and Britain’s Gordon Reid also justified top seeding in the men’s doubles, extending their unbeaten sequence as a doubles partnership to four tournaments after defeating French fourth seeds Michael Jeremiasz and Peifer 63 63 in the final.
Taylor and Wagner had won the first title of the week on the penultimate day of competition after claiming their seventh ITF Wheelchair Doubles Masters quad title with a 61 62 win over their fellow American Greg Hasterok and Canada’s Sarah Hunter.