Photo: Takeo Tanuma PhotographyStephane Houdet (FRA) and Shingo Kunieda (JPN)
Stephane Houdet and Shingo Kunieda won their fifth Grand Slam men’s doubles title together on Friday’s penultimate day of the Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, while there was a first Grand Slam title for Yui Kamiji and Jordanne Whiley in the women’s doubles.
Kunieda and Kamiji will now bid to add the men's and women's singles titles on Satuday.
Friday’s action also included a remarkable quad singles round-robin victory for US Open champion Lucas Sithole as the South African world No. 2 joined David Wagner of USA in Saturday’s final.
Houdet and Kunieda, who won their first Grand Slam title as a partnership in Melbourne in 2010, reeled off four games in succession to take a commanding 4-1 lead in the first set against second seeds Gordon Reid and Maikel Scheffers. The British-Dutch partnership broke back to get back on serve, but Houdet and Kunieda, the world’s top two ranked singles and doubles players, clinched the last two games of the set.
Reid and Scheffers were unable to convert their chances after having a 40-0 lead in the fifth game of the second set, but made amends to level the set at 3-3 before Houdet and Kunieda took control again and they broke their opponents to love to wrap up a 63 63 victory.
“I’m very happy after the frustration of losing in the semis of the singles,” said Houdet. “Ten days ago we had a match against them and we lost after two match points, so I said to Shingo that we had to play our own game and play to win and not play to avoid to lose and that was our strategy today.”
Houdet and Kunieda have now won two Australian Open titles, two Roland Garros titles and claimed their first Wimbledon title together in 2013.
Kamiji and Whiley claim first Grand Slam doubles title together
Dutch second seeds Marjolein Buis and Jiske Griffioen won just four points in the opening three games of the women’s doubles final as top seeds Kamiji and Whiley raced into a 5-0 lead. Back-to-back games for Buis and Griffioen suggested a comeback, but it was short-lived and Kamiji and Whiley secured one final break in the set after 28 minutes of play.
Last year’s Wimbledon runners-up Kamiji and Whiley secured the first service hold of the second set to take a narrow 3-2 lead before Buis and Griffioen once again put together back-to-back games. Hoerver, after a tense series of exchanges the set went to a tiebreak, which Buis and Griffioen largely dominated after establishing a 4-1 lead to keep their title hopes alive.
The first breakthrough of the final set belonged to Kamiji and Whiley as they built on a 3-1 lead to break their opponents to love and make it 4-1. It was a cushion they were never to relinquish and they comfortably served out the match for a 62 67(3) 62 victory.
“It was a very close match and I was very nervous, so I’m very relieved and very, very happy to have finally won a Grand Slam,” said Whiley, who has been making her second appearance at the Australian Open after making her Grand Slam debut in Melbourne in 2011.
“At the end of the second set I said to Yui we needed to keep hitting the ball, otherwise we would lose. We are planning on playing all the Grand Slams together this year and we want to win them all.”
Sithole to face Wagner in quad singles final
In only his fourth tournament in the quad division, local Australian Dylan Alcott threatened another upset this week in Melbourne as the 23-year-old provided world No. 2 Lucas Sithole with mighty challenge.
With both players needing to win the match after one win an one loss from their first two round-robin matches, Alcott stormed into a 5-1 lead against the US Open champion before comfortably taking the opening set.
Sithole clinched the first break of the second to move 4-1 up and went on to force the decider, but one again there was a shift in momentum as Alcott built a 5-2 lead in the final set. However, Sithole would not be denied and he saved two match points en route to reducing his deficit to 5-4 as he served stay in the match.
The South African second seed led for the first time in the final set at 6-5 and with the match being played with no final set tiebreak he earned himself three match points at 7-6 and 0-40, eventually taking his second opportunity for a dramatic 26 62 86 victory.
Sithole, who made history last September by becoming the first African to win a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis title after beating Wagner in New York, will now play the American world No. 1 again in Saturday’s Australian Open decider.
Wagner had already secured his place in the final before his last round-robin match against Britain’s world No. 3 Andy Lapthorne, the player Wagner had partnered to win the quad doubles title on Thursday. However, he will go into the singles final with the same record as Sithole, two wins and a loss, after a 75 75 defeat by Lapthorne, who gained just his fourth career win over Wagner.
Men's singles draw
Men's doubles draw
Women's singles draw
Women's doubles draw
Quad singles draw
Quad doubles draw