Japan’s Yui Kamiji and Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina both booked places in their first Grand Slam singles finals on Thursday’s second day of the Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships.
Kamiji is now set to go head-to-head with German top seed Sabine Ellerbrock in Saturday’s women’s singles final to decide which of the two players succeeds last year’s Australian Open champion Aniek van Koot as the world No. 1 ranked women’s singles player.
Meanwhile, Fernandez will meet defending champion Shingo Kunieda in the men’s singles final after the world No. 5 became the first South American to reach a wheelchair tennis Grand Slam title decider.
With van Koot unable to defend her title in Melbourne as she continues to recover from a tendonitis injury, last year’s runner-up Ellerbrock secured her place in her second successive Australian Open final after a dominant 61 61 victory over world No. 7 Jordanne Whiley as the Brit struggled in her first Grand Slam semifinal.
Elerbrock had retired from the semifinal of her warm-up tournament, last weekend’s Melbourne Open, with injury, but for the second day in a row she appeared in fine form as she reached her fourth Grand Slam final in a row.
“A Grand Slam is always very special. I played the final here last year and it’s always amazing to have a chance to be a part of this event and I'm really looking forward to it (the final)”, said Ellerbrock. “I have a problem with my thumb. I think it's a ligament. My doctor, physio and trainer, they keep me fit here. I also have some problems with my neck. But I can play, otherwise I wouldn't be here today. So it won't be a problem on Saturday.
“I think after Esther's (Vergeer) retirement, our draw has got more interesting. No one knows who will beat the other player,” added Ellerbrock, who first claimed the world No. 1 ranking form van Koot last July before the Dutchwoman beat Ellerbrock in the US Open final to reclaim the top spot..
“I had the luck to play all the Grand Slam finals last year. Of course, it's very special, and I know that everyone will be very nervous and usually the first set is not the best tennis. I don't know if it’s an advantage really. Maybe I have an advantage because of my 30 year tennis experience.”
While Ellerbrock was the first German player to top the women’s wheelchair tennis world rankings in 2013, victory for Kamiji on Saturday would see her become the first Japanese player to top the rankings.
The 19-year-old is no stranger to making history. In November she beat Jiske Griffioen to become the first non-Dutch player to win the women’s singles at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. Since then they had met twice this season, with one straight sets win apiece before meeting in Thursday’s other women’s semifinal in Melbourne. As at the Masters in November, this time they went to a deciding set, with Kamiji recovering from a poor second set to prevail 63 06 64.
Fernandez upsets Houdet as Kunieda powers on
One day after winning his first ever singles match at a Grand Slam, world No. 5 Fernandez ended Stephane Houdet’s bid for a second straight Australian Open final as defending champion Shingo Kunieda produced a peerless display in the other men’s semifinal.
Fernandez swept through the opening set against his French opponent, who met Kunieda in all three Grand Slam singles finals in 2013, winning at Roland Garros and the US Open. Houdet fought back in the second set, but he could not force a decider and 20-year-old rising star Fernandez advanced 61 76(4).
Kunieda raced to a 60 60 victory in his semifinal against 2012 Australian Open champion Maikel Scheffers. Scheffers won his first Australian Open two years ago in Kunieda’s absence, but his title hopes this year ended abruptly as the Dutchman managed to win just 15 points in the whole match. Fernandez will now bid to repeat his only career win to date over Kunieda, at the 2013 BNP Paribas World Team Cup.
Doubles finalists decided
Scheffers put his singles semifinal woes behind him to reach a first Grand Slam final partnering Britain’s Gordon Reid. Second seeds Reid and Scheffers, winners of their first Super Series title together just over a week ago in Sydney, took a 3-0 first set lead against Fernandez and Michael Jeremiasz of France en route to easing to the first set of their semifinal. Reid and Scheffers faced a tougher challenge in the second set, but ultimately wrapped up a 62 75 victory.
In the other semifinal Australian Adam Kellerman was aiming to reach his second successive Australian Open doubles final, but despite leading Houdet and Kunieda narrowly in the second set wildcard Kellerman and his Belgian partner Joachim Gerard eventually lost out 61 64. The top two seeded partnerships will therefore meet in Friday’s final.
Both seeded partnerships in the women’s doubles also had to come from behind in their respective semifinals before also advancing to the final.
Top seeds Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley recovered from 3-0 down in both sets against Ellerbrock and South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane before prevailing 64 76(4). Dutch second seeds Marjolein Buis and Griffioen also came from behind in the opening set against Lucy Shuker and Sharon Walraven to seal a 63 61 win.
Men's singles draw
Men's doubles draw
Women's singles draw
Women's doubles draw
Quad singles draw